The Rise & Fall: The Great Alaska Shootout

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Lets get a game plan run down… 4 day weekend, check. Pants with elastic waist, check. Thanksgiving Dinner plans, check. Shootout tickets…. Ugh, maybe if someone has a free one? Nowadays, Alaskan families have created cheaper more popular traditions, liking catch a few tickets to the new “Hunger Games” featurette rather than loading up and hitting the stadium for a ball game.

The Great Alaska Shootout or Shootout, for those that live here… has lost quite a bit of its reputation and pales in comparison to its greatness of old. A tournament renowned for its roster of big name college basketball programs, once boasted names such as Duke, North Carolina, Kentucky and UCLA. Since its conception in 1978, the Shootout has hosted more than 150 top mens and womens collegiate teams.

 5 defending National Champions have played  in the Great Alaska Shootout the following year?
So what made the Shootout so great? For one, the Shootout drew some of the biggest names in college basketball from around the country. In a time back before the internet… Alaskans were limited to a select number of televised games and national exposure. This was a chance for Alaskan fans to see the top competition up close and well, at home. Also televison, the tournament inked big time coverage contracts that made the Great Alaska Shootout, a holiday household name across the country. Need a million dollars? The tournaments half time million dollar shot was also aired live and it was exciting, although no one has ever hit the shot, there has been a few close calls. One lucky fan walked away with a corvette one year.

For programs looking to get a headstart, the Shootout was a loophole that allowed them to play not only big name competition, but a few extra games prior to its regular season and not have it reflect on its upcoming record. Normally programs are limited to a certain amount of regular-season games; however, games in “exempted events”, like the Shootout, are not counted against that limit. Good way to size up your competition. Also, it was a national announcement that your program this year, was for real.

So like, is anyone going to address that big ass elephant in the room? Why has the Great Alaska Shootout sucked for the last few years? And lets be honest… it did. As big as a lover of our state as I am and a lifetime fan of basketball, Im sorry… somehow Missouri State can’t compete with Jennifer Lawrence in a tight black body suit and awe inspiring special effects for $9 dollars, especially after The Fappening. I mean, you can average 15 and 3 a game… but can you shoot down a Capitol aircraft with a high tech explosive arrow, who was trying to bomb a makeshift hospital in district 8?  >—-> Please.

The Great Alaska Shootout: A shot of the ournament from its previous home, the Sullivan Arena. The 2014 will be hosted at the new Alaska Airlines Center.
Ok lets back it up… the Shootout doesn’t suck so much as it “couldn’t keep up” but its not like they didn’t try. A few years back the NCAA changed their ruling, allowing teams to compete in more than 2 “exempt events” every four years, enter… BIG MONEY. The second blow came when ESPN chose not to renew its TV contract and jumped at the new ruling launching a tournament of their own. Oh and then theres the Maui Invitational and the Preseason NIT. Alaska… literally, was not hot.

Prime locations, national TV deals and lucrative appearance fees were close to forcing the once “great” tournament toward extinction, while for other smaller tournaments out of the market altogether. It appeared the Shootout was faced with its own 1 in a million half court shot. (yea, see what I did there?)

So where are we now? Will the Great Alaska Shootouts legacy be, that tournament that once was? Is this the proverbial “Last Dance”. If you thought that… WRONG. Like that guy in that thick ass book you read on sundays, there’s a chance the Shootout will be back in the end.

Thanks to a 2+ million dollar subsidy from the state legislature, new title sponsors, the CBS Sports Network, and a new 5,oo seat stadium, the once “Great” basketball tournament has a leg up in its survival.

Alaska Airlines CenterThe 2014 tournament has already shown promise with ticket sales of 1500 for its early sessions. And its a good thing too… We know these things take time and it would be a shame to lose such an Alaskan classic. Cause really, what’s better than friends and family, the holidays,  Jennifer Lawrence and a long standing Alaskan tradition… The Great Alaska Shootout. SHOOT THE 3!!


Phillip Crawford

Content creator and video/photographer for You can follow Phillip on Twitter and Instagram - @phillip907