For the players on the court, Montclair State University’s first-round NCAA tournament game could be played anywhere; the undefeated women’s basketball team is focused on beating Regis College on Friday.
But for athletics director Holly Gera, having the top seed in the Atlantic region play its tournament games outside the state does offer challenges not normally associated a 27-0 season record.
The Red Hawks will play Regis at Lebanon Valley College, in Pennsylvania, on Friday because, as of Oct. 15, New Jersey had a sports betting law on the books. Gera said once the law hit the register, Montclair was part of a conference call alerting schools around the state that the governing body of college sports was not going to host any championship tournament games here.
Gera said the NCAA’s stance affected three fall sports teams, as well as the women’s basketball team. Hosting tournament games — when four to seven teams from around the country, and their fans, families and support staff, come to the area — is more for pride and exposure rather than revenue.
“In Division III athletics, there’s a budget and a formula, and it’s not something that you do in order to make money,” Gera said. “You want to host for the pride in your school and to play in front of the home fans, and to have an opportunity to bring people from other institutions and other parts of the country on to your campus.”
Gera did say the local economy does get a “bump” when tournaments are hosted at Montclair — everything from parking, hotels and restaurants sees an increase from teams and their fans.
Local fans are disappointed, too. William Pascrell III, a lobbyist with Princeton Public Affairs Group and supporter of the sports gambling law, said he was intending to take his youngest daughter, who plays high school basketball, to the game if it was on the Montclair campus.
“She loves the game,” Pascrell said, adding that he was disappointed the NCAA was using “this issue to pull the plug on sports.”