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Auburn roars in Rocket City Classic, but stream broadcast misses mark

HUNTSVILLE – A sold-out Propst Arena at the Von Braun Center got what most came to see – a rousing win by the Auburn men’s basketball team over UNC Asheville in the return of the Rocket City Classic.

The relaunch of the event was a triumph, one that ensured organizers will continue to offer comparable hoops events in the future. Though playing on a neutral court, it was a “home game” for the Tigers in front of a mostly blue and orange clad crowd that filled the 6,556 seats to watch an 87-62 victory over the Bulldogs. 

“It was great,” Mark Russell, executive director of the Huntsville Sports Council, said. “People were excited. Huntsville had a great time.”


The game was a collaboration of the HSC, the Huntsville-Madison County Convention & Visitors Bureau and Nation of Coaches. Plans are to continue the event annually.

“We want to have the Rocket City Classic every year,” Russell said. “It’ll probably be a different team each year. I don’t know how many repeat teams we’ll have, but Auburn (head coach Bruce Pearl) said at the press conference they want to come back.

“We know other institutions that are interested so we’ll do the best we can to make it an exciting event for Huntsville.”

UNC Asheville head coach Mike Morrell said he thought scheduling Auburn was a “good idea” prior to his team running into a buzzsaw in the Rocket City. 

“If I was Coach Pearl,” he said, “I would play more games here. That was a heck of an environment.”

However, as much as the event was a live success, “The Next Round”’s streamed broadcast on SEC Network+ landed with a louder thud than the window-rattling rocket test booms on Redstone Arsenal. Reaction was brutal to the show put on by the Birmingham-based crew of Jim Dunaway, Ryan Brown, Lance Taylor and Sean “Rockstar” Heninger.

The broadcast was shown on a split screen, with the crew from “The Next Round” trying a different approach of multiple, and according to critics too many, in-game interviews with Huntsville city officials, employees and the man-on-the-street.

A sampling of social media comments on X, formerly known as Twitter, during the game and afterward from those who were in the arena:

  • “No hate on Huntsville, but that was legitimately the worst broadcast I’ve ever seen.’’”
  • “I’m from Huntsville, Alabama. Graduated from Grissom. This Rocket City Classic broadcast makes me embarrassed to be associated with Huntsville. They are now interviewing their FOURTH person ON CAMERA instead of showing the basketball game we’re all here to see (on TV).”
  • “I’ve seen so much crap about last nights (sic) broadcast that it almost makes me want to go and watch it just to see how bad it was. Thankful to be able to go and witness Auburn basketball in Huntsville last night.”
  • “Worst game programming I have ever seen.”
  • “Ok but what if we didn’t go over every event in Huntsville history during this broadcast?”
  • “We did a 2 hour advertisement for Huntsville and a basketball game broke out!”
  • “Glad I was at the game and didn’t have to listen to that awful broadcast I’m hearing about. It was a great AU environment in Huntsville! WDE”

That final comment is how Pearl left it in the wake of Auburn heading home to take on USC in an intriguing non-conference game.

“I appreciated all the support,” Pearl said. “We’ve been trying to get to Huntsville for a few years now. We’ve got some of the best Auburn fans in Huntsville. We really do. It was great.”




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