At an already busy time of year, ESPN Events is adding an 11th college basketball event to its resume with the creation of PK80 – the Phil Knight Invitational, over Thanksgiving week 2017 from Portland, Ore.
The 16-team, early-season men’s college basketball event honors Nike co-founder and 2012 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame inductee Knight in advance of his 80th birthday.
The event is tabbed as one of the largest regular-season tournaments in college basketball history, sporting a field featuring some of the top schools in the nation: Arkansas, Butler, Connecticut, Duke, Florida, Georgetown, Gonzaga, Michigan State, North Carolina, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oregon, Portland, Portland State, Stanford and Texas.
Front Row asked Vice President, ESPN Events, Clint Overby, to explain the nuances of pulling together PK80.
How did this tournament come to fruition?
It was born out of the schools’ desire to honor Mr. Knight. The Rose Quarter (representing the Moda Center and Veterans Memorial Coliseum) in Portland and ESPN were brought in to provide shape to event and stage on behalf of the schools.
With the event being more than a year away, what needs to get done between today’s announcement and game time in 2017?
Most importantly, we need to collaborate with the schools, the Rose Quarter and Nike to ensure that we put together an event that truly captures the spirit and legacy of Mr. Knight. It goes without saying the field is certainly reflective of that spirit – now we need to fully prepare and execute an operational plan that takes into account the needs of the schools, their fan bases, local Portland ticket buyers, sponsors and, most importantly, Mr. Knight.
Taking on a new event of this magnitude, how does this affect your staff in Charlotte and around the company?
Like all things with ESPN, nothing is done without a true team effort. We have been working across multiple departments within ESPN to ensure a quality experience for those who will be watching at home and those who chose to attend in person. With a full slate of events already on our roster for that week, this will certainly add to our workload – good news is we have quality people who can execute multiple events and have been working in the background laying the foundation to ensure a quality event. To that point – we have a great operational partner in the Rose Quarter that has been instrumental in providing guidance and expertise in wide variety of event related aspects.
How will this impact ESPN’s other MTEs (Multiple-Team Events) during the Thanksgiving holiday?
We view this as a positive for college basketball, in general. The collection of teams provides a strong early-season platform for the sport which should lead to greater fan interest at a time of year when the attention might be directed elsewhere.