story by Claire Miller Ι photo courtesy of the Atlanta Basketball Host Committee
When the COVID-19 pandemic began spreading across the U.S., the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and the Atlanta Basketball Host Committee (ABHC) were already working with more than 2,000 volunteers and several public and private facilities in Atlanta to prepare for the NCAA Men’s Basketball Final Four and its associated community-based events.
Officials announced the Final Four’s cancellation in mid-March and proceeded to handle cancellation logistics for the main event and find ways to continue the smaller events planned throughout the city.
In the midst of this upheaval, Professor Beth Cianfrone and Associate Professor Tim Kellison conducted interviews with NCAA and ABHC members and collected participant-based observations about how the organizations adapted during a sudden public health crisis.
Their findings, published in the International Journal of Sport Communication, revealed that some community-based events could be shifted to online formats while others needed to be postponed or cancelled. The ones already planned to be held online – such as the Read to the Final Four program, which invited elementary students across Atlanta to participate in a bracket-style reading series – were even more impactful during a time when people were encouraged to stay home.
The ABHC also completed an inventory project to see what branded materials and products prepared for the events, such as Final Four basketballs, could be donated to local organizations or used in the future.
Cianfrone and Kellison’s article not only examines the specific ways the ABHC handled all its event cancellations and adaptations, but also highlights the overarching impact that large-scale sporting events can have on a host city.
City leaders and sport enterprises often promote the need for community funding and support to become host sites and to build stadiums that can house games and tournaments. In return, they argue, places like Atlanta can see substantial economic gains, increased tourism and other positive benefits by hosting events like the Final Four.
The authors recommend sport organizations and host committees keep this information in mind when planning a major event – especially if it has to be cancelled.
“Given the substantial investment of time and money by a host community and local organizing committee, and in light of the growing number of events being cancelled or postponed indefinitely because of the coronavirus pandemic, sport managers may look to their legacy plans as a vehicle for promoting the event’s positive impact on the community, even if the event itself cannot happen due to public health concerns,” Cianfrone and Kellison wrote.
To read the full article, click here.
About the Researchers
Department of Kinesiology and Health
Professor Beth Cianfrone is the program coordinator for the college’s sport administration master’s program, which has been ranked No. 11 in North America and No. 13 internationally by SportBusiness International, a news organization that offers insight and analysis in the business of sport. She serves as co-director of the CEHD’s Center for Sport and Urban Policy and established the college’s Ph.D. program in sport administration. She is a dedicated research mentor, actively publishing and presenting studies with numerous graduate students, and has advised several award-winning teams at the Sport Marketing Association and College Sport Research Institute’s annual case study competitions. She is a North American Society for Sport Management Research Fellow and was also the 2019 recipient of the Sport Marketing Association’s Stotlar Award.
Department of Kinesiology and Health
Associate Professor Tim Kellison’s research is primarily focused on sport in the urban environment, with special emphasis in sport ecology, urban and regional planning, public policy and politics. He has explored multiple questions related to the real and perceived benefits and harms sport and its industry bring to urban communities. He is director of the award-winning Center for Sport and Urban Policy and holds affiliate faculty status in the Urban Studies Institute. He has received multiple recognitions for his work, including being designated a North American Society for Sport Management Research Fellow and being named a Fulbright Specialist in Urban Planning. Additionally, Kellison served on an international working group convened by the Secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and served as a co-author of the U.N.’s Sports for Climate Action Framework.
Read Their Article
Cianfrone, B. A., and Kellison, T. (2020). “The Impact of the Coronavirus Pandemic on a Major Event Legacy: The 2020 National Collegiate Athletic Association Men’s Basketball Final Four.” International Journal of Sport Communication, 13(3), 419-426. https://journals.humankinetics.com/view/journals/ijsc/13/3/article-p419.xml