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Conference USA launches basketball season at Space & Rocket Center

HUNTSVILLE – With memorabilia lining the walls and hanging from the rafters telling the story of Huntsville’s early participation in space flight, Conference USA launched its 2023-24 basketball season with Tipoff and Media Days at the Davidson Center on the campus of the U.S. Space & Rocket Center.

A reshuffled CUSA gathered all nine of its members men’s and women’s teams for interviews and live television appearances Monday on ESPN+. The league, headquartered in Dallas, will travel back to the Rocket City for its postseason championship following the regular season.

The Von Braun Center’s Propst Arena will be home to the 2024 and 2025 CUSA Championships with the possibility of extending the contract. The first tournament is set for March 12-16. Tickets are on sale at www.ticketmaster.com.

“There’s so much history in Huntsville,” ESPN host John Schriffen said. “It’s a great relationship (for CUSA).”

All nine member schools were represented by coaches and players from men’s and women’s teams. In the current age of conference realignment, CUSA had four schools join, including Jacksonville State.

Liberty, Sam Houston and New Mexico State also joined the reshuffled CUSA. Returning members include Florida International, Louisiana Tech, Middle Tennessee State, Texas-El Paso and Western Kentucky. Kennesaw State is joining next year.

CUSA Commissioner Judy MacLeod made her third visit to Huntsville. The championships are moving from their previous home in Frisco, Texas, to more centrally located Huntsville.

“It’s been great,” she told 256 Today prior to her television segment. “The people are so welcoming. The first thing we saw was the alignment between everyone involved. You don’t find that alignment everywhere.

“They do so many events, and they’re good at it. We just felt so welcome.”

Huntsville City Administrator John Hamilton said efforts were already underway to ensure attendees a have good visit.

“The question is, ‘How do we pull folks together to really make the event special?’” he said. “The approach we’ve always taken is – No. 1 make it special for the athletes and No. 2 for the coaches and staff and ultimately the fans.

“We’re already been in conversations with organizations like Downtown Huntsville Inc. about bringing in a festival-like environment around the facility.”

With Big Spring Park across the street from the VBC, the room is there to have attractions such as music, food trucks and various vendors. 

As for the tournament, Mark Russell, executive director of the Huntsville Sports Commission, anticipates “a packed house” at Propst Arena.

“We’re going to work really hard to make downtown a great place to be,” he said. “It already is a great place to be. Some of the teams are within driving distance. We’re hoping do everything we can to get their fans to come here and spend money at our hotels, party in our bars, eat in our restaurants and have a great time while they’re in Huntsville, Alabama.”

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