HARRIS COUNTY - HSA INSIDER

A weekly look at all things Houston sports from the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority: Big things are ahead

The Final Four in 2016 was a huge success. Courtesy photo

The Harris County – Houston Sports Authority Insider will take you inside Houston Sports each Friday because #WeAreHoustonSports!

A new year and a few more things that could have Houston sports fans celebrating.

Yes, we’re just a little more than month away from the inaugural star-studded Houston Sports Awards Feb 8 at the Hilton Americas and more than excited, but we’re talking longer term here.

Sometime this summer, the NCAA will determine the cities that will host the Men’s Final Four from 2023-2026 and the Women’s Final Four from 2021-2024 and, yes, Houston is in the running for both.

Doug Hall, Vice President of Special Projects for the Houston Sports Authority, said the group submitted the Men’s Final Four bids in mid-December and is putting the finishing touches on the Women’s Final Four bid, due this spring.

Houston drew great reviews as host for the 2011 and 2016 Men’s Final Fours, but, despite several bids, has never been selected to host a Women’s Final Four. They are, without question, different events.

The men’s event is a stadium event that draws incredible crowds. Hall estimates there are only about a dozen cities in the country that have the facilities to host the men.

The women’s event is smaller, more of an arena event and opens up many more potential host cities. Hall said the proposal would make Toyota Center available for the event.

The 2016 Final Four Championship game came down to Kris Jenkins’ three-pointer at the buzzer that gave Villanova a 77-74 win over North Carolina. It was Villanova’s first national title since 1985.

At the time, Dan Gavitt, the NCAA vice president of men’s basketball championships, calls the game “one of the best national championship games in tournament history.” The event attendance total was 149,845 – at the time, the second highest attendance in Men’s Final Four history. The championship game drew 74,340, also, at the time, the second-highest in championship game history.

The 2017 Final Four in Phoenix pushed both those numbers to third on the all-time list, but with the scope of the event changing annually, it is no surprise.

“We certainly have built on the success of the 2011 and 2016 Men’s Final Fours, but part of our proposal is toward the future,’’ Hall said. “The tournament continues to evolve. It’s a long way away and we expect that it will grow in size and scope.’’

Gavitt also noted Houston “showed the teams and fans Southern hospitality and put on terrific fan events, including youth clinics, the March Madness Music Festival and the Final Four Fan Fest.”

You can expect Houston to keep looking forward – it’s what made the 2017 Final Four special and Super Bowl LI one of the best ever.

Like Hall said, it’s all evolving. And if Houston manages to land one or both of the events? By 2021-2026, those events will look different than 2018 events.

Houston will be ready.

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Correa knows it's time for his payday. Composite image by Jack Brame.

The Rangers made a big splash over the weekend when they agreed to terms on a 7-year $175 million contract with infielder Marcus Semien. Apparently, that was just the tip of the iceberg. According to multiple reports, the Rangers have also added arguably the most coveted player in free agency, Corey Seager. Seager and the Rangers have agreed to a massive 10-year $325 million contract.

Before the Seager news broke, many were starting to wonder if teams would be willing to hand out 10-year deals for over 300 million dollars with the lockout just around the corner. Now we have our answer, and Carlos Correa has to be a very happy man to see how the market is shifting. The Rangers not only added two incredible players, but they also made it pretty much a certainty that Correa will either leave Houston, or the Astros will have to sign him to a long-term $300 million deal, which is not likely based on their stance on multi-year big money contracts.

The Rangers aren't the only team in the AL West making blockbuster moves. The Mariners agreed to terms with 2021 AL Cy Young Award winner Robbie Ray on Monday. Ray and Seattle agreed to a 5-year, $115 million contract.

The Angels joined in on the action a couple of weeks ago when they signed Noah Syndergard to a 1-year 21 million dollar deal.

Clearly, the AL West is on notice that they're going to have to make big changes if they want to compete with the Houston Astros who have dominated the AL recently with 5 straight ALCS appearances and 3 trips to the World Series. With Correa likely out the door in Houston, these teams might believe this is a perfect time to make a run at the division and finally knock off the Astros. Only time will tell if these deals will work, and the Astros look to have a terrific team this season whether Correa returns or not.

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