Any high-profile sporting event takes countless people out in front to execute and equally important contributors behind the scenes. The 2022 NCAA Women’s Final Four coming up on the weekend of April 1-3 is no exception.
The MSR last week talked to several such integral folk, all Black, in the planning and eventual staging of this year’s national semifinals, championship, and ancillary events coming to downtown Minneapolis. Here are brief profiles of three.
Melvin Tennant, Meet Minneapolis president and CEO
Melvin Tennant has been involved in numerous big events held in the Twin Cities for almost a decade: Super Bowl (2018), NCAA Men’s Final Four (2019), X Games (2017-19), and two All-Star Games (MLB, 2014 and WNBA, 2019) to name a few. Mainstream media have too often overlooked his role in helping lure such events to the Cities.
“We’ll have a number of our team members deeply involved as we have been since the beginning of this process in the planning [since 2017],” said Tennant, who downplayed his very important role. “I will say that we’ve had a very diverse group of individuals involved from the very beginning in recruiting this event.”
He also pointed out that during this year’s Final Four he and his staff will be entertaining “as many as 30 potential customers that are considering us for their own event. It’s a very common practice for us to bring potential customers in a big event like this. We did it for the Super Bowl. We did it for the Men’s Final Four in 2019.
“I’ll definitely be attending the [Final Four] events [and] working with our customers, but also enjoying some great basketball.”
Nina King, NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Committee chair
“It’s a great honor to be leading this committee,” King told the MSR after the Feb. 22 Final Four press conference. She is Duke University athletic director, a position she has held since 2021, but she has been in the school’s athletic executive leadership for 13 years. King chairs the 10-person basketball selection committee that selects, seeds and brackets the 68-team women’s field.
“This is my fourth year, and I chaired the committee last year,” said King. Asked if a Black woman being in charge is important these days, she stressed, “Absolutely, so important. Representation matters for our student-athletes to be able to see women [and] people of color in positions of leadership.”
King’s committee has a huge task in front of them: “I don’t think people realize the kind of magnitude of the work,” she continued. “All of us on the committee…have day jobs on campuses or in conference offices. It’s critically important to be watching games to know what’s going on.”
Alystia Moore, ESPN director of programming and acquisitions
Since 2018, Alystia Moore’s main responsibilities at ESPN have included programming women’s basketball and women’s sports at the network. She said being in her position, especially for Black girls playing sports or not, “to be able to see that there are so many different areas where you can stay close to the game. I think that’s really important to see,” noted the ESPN executive.
Asked about the constant criticism that ESPN receives on its greater emphasis on men’s sports, especially men’s college basketball, than their female counterparts, Moore responded, “I think that we do a tremendous job of covering the [women’s] game, but of course, there’s always things that we can do better. It’s just a matter of doing the best that we can.”
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.