Women's Basketball Revives Nostalgia, Set To Return To Oman Arena
JACKSON, Tenn. -- High profile NAIA women's basketball is returning to Oman Arena next month.
It's been a few years since the NAIA women's national basketball tournament left Jackson, Tenn. for Frankfort, Ky., and now Kansas City, but the top programs remaining in the NAIA apparently want to come back to Jackson.
That's why there will be 14 of the top teams in the country playing in what is also the return of the Jackson Rotary Classic Invitational on Nov. 25-26.
"We are very excited for the city of Jackson to again invest in NAIA women's basketball," head John Brown University coach Jeff Soderquist said. "We have such good memories of coming out here for the National Championships. We are looking forward to this tournament and playing some of the best teams in the nation."
The Golden Eagles last appeared at the historic venus in 2011, making an appearance in the National Championships Round of 32.
"I've got plenty of great memories in Oman Arena, and a lot of people associated with the teams coming back do too," said Bethel University radio broadcaster Dave McCulley, who serves as one of the coordinators for the event.
The coaching staffs and senior basketball players from Freed-Hardeman University and Bethel University were on hand at the Jackson Rotary's weekly meeting on Wednesday for the official announcement.
"To be able to play right here in West Tennessee in another big-time atmosphere at Oman Arena is an opportunity we're looking forward to," said FHU head coach Dale Neal. "Being a part of the Rotary Classic in years past has been a good opportunity for our teams to play quality competition early in the season, and it's just a fun event to be a part of."
Bethel head coach Chris Nelson is also looking forward to the event.
"We've played in a few of these tournaments, but I can remember vividly being eight or nine years old and coming to Jackson and watching the tournament," Nelson said. "Being able to coach in the tournament before it moved was an honor."
Both coaches said when their programs go to tournaments in other places that other coaches from around the country will say they miss coming to Jackson.
Vanguard University head coach Russ Davis made similar statements in a press release as he's also a coordinator for the event.
"Every team and coach I've invited is super excited to play in this event," Davis said. "And it is my hope that the city comes out to watch and support the teams and charities in the area."
Bill Brewer of the Jackson Rotary Club is helping coordinate the tournament locally along with Mary Beth Hopper, who was the coordinator each year the NAIA Championships was played."
"Everybody seems to be excited to come, and we're excited to have these teams here staying in hotels and eating in our restaurants over Thanksgiving weekend," Brewer said. "They will help serve at RIFA's Thanksgiving meal too."
The 14 institutions invited are Bethel University (Tenn.), Freed-Hardeman (Tenn.), Vanguard University (Calif.), Cumberland University (Tenn.), Westmont College (Calif.), University of Great Falls (Mont.), Carroll College (Mont.), Montana State University, Campbellsville University (Ky.), Columbia University (Mo.), John Brown University (Ark.), Talladega College (Ala.), Our Lady of the Lake College (Texas) and Mid-America Nazarene University (Kan.).
The schedule of games will be released at a later date.