D-III basketball notebook: Whitewater familiar with Salem


SALEM, Va. -- As familiar as the Williams College athletic department has grown to be when it comes to this southern Virginia city, the Wisconsin-Whitewater athletic department might just consider Salem a second home.

Williams is on its eighth trip to Salem since 1997. Seven of those trips were to play in the NCAA Division III Final Four and last year’s trip was to play in the Elite Eight.

Like William, Wisconsin-Whitewater has been here a lot - 10 different times with both football and basketball.

"We know the people very well. It’s fun to come here and see people that you have connections with and have seen over the years," said Whitewater basketball coach Pat Miller, who has made four of those trips here with his team. "There’s definitely a familiarity, and I think people in Whitewater almost look at Salem as a second home."

The Warhawks have played in three previous Final Fours and have three national championship banners. They won titles in Grand Rapids Mich., in 1984; in Springfield, Ohio, in 1989; here in Salem in 2012.

In football, Wisconsin-Whitewater has come to Salem eight times. The Warhawks won titles in 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2013.

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It’s back to normal for the commissioner and the staff of the Old Dominion Athletic Conference, the Roanoke-based Division III league that runs the basketball championship.

"It’s nice to be able to have a championship," said commissioner Brad Bankston, "and see these teams play the semis and final."

Last year, the Elite Eight and Final Four matchups were played here at the Civic Center, while the national championship game was played in Atlanta as part of the Division I Final Four weekend.

Salem and the NCAA have re-upped for four more seasons.

"This past year was critical for us in terms of bidding and having support," said Bankston. "I think the fact that the city was very agreeable to the scenario last year probably certainly helped the city."

The title game was in Atlanta to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the NCAA Tournament.

This is the 40th anniversary of the Division III Final Four, and the 18th time the title will be decided in Southern Virginia.

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One of the more familiar faces in Salem -- at least for those who followed the University of Massachusetts during the Calipari heyday -- is former Atlantic 10 Conference commissioner Linda Bruno.

Bruno, who spent 14 seasons as the A-10 commissioner, is currently the commissioner of the New York City-based Skyline Conference. She is also a member of the Division III Basketball Committee, representing the Atlantic Region.

"It’s interesting. The kids are just as excited about winning [as the D-I athletes]. The coaches are just as excited to be here," she said. "I think the difference is really the level of public attention.

"The competition is the same. It might be a different level and it might be played a little bit differently. The fact of the matter is, these are very good athletes playing for a national championship. There’s nothing you can do to change that. Not that you would want to."

To reach Howard Herman:
or (413) 496-6253.
On Twitter: @howardherman.


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