OUR VIEW: Miller Classic game plan has worked, so don't change it
In the inaugural year of the Mike Miller Classic basketball event, a massive winter storm rolled into Mitchell. That was in 2010, when a late-December blizzard brought cold, wind and about 10 inches of snow in two days.
For the most part, basketball fans didn't care about the frigid South Dakota weather. They still showed up to watch the first year of the classic, which, for the past four years has brought in some of the nation's top high school basketball teams and showcased them on Mitchell's city-owned tourist attraction, the Corn Palace.
Each year after, the Miller Classic continued its success and was a major highlight of the basketball season. Fans packed the Corn Palace to see highly anticipated matchups, and Mike Miller -- the Mitchell native and NBA player for whom the tournament is named -- made a surprise showing in 2011.
"I wish I wasn't so old, so I could play in the Corn Palace again," Miller told a large crowd prior to Mitchell's 2011 game against Custer. "Thank you so much for all the support."
Yes, basketball enthusiasts fans look forward to the Miller Classic annually. (This year, it's being held Dec. 27 and Dec. 29). The day the pairings are released are always filled with excitement, with fans checking to see which of the nation's best high school players will come to Mitchell to play in our arena.
But Monday, we learned the Corn Palace this year will lose half of the Miller Classic to Sioux Falls. Event organizer Ernie Kuyper told The Daily Republic that the first day of the two-day event will be held at the Corn Palace, and then it will move to the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls for the second day.
We -- and we suspect other Mitchell fans -- were disappointed to hear this news. Aren't Sioux Falls and the state's largest cities already garnering enough attention by taking the majority of the state tournaments?
In its own way, the Miller Classic has been Mitchell's state tournament for the past four years, drawing huge crowds and filling the town's hotel rooms and restaurants for two- and three-day stretches.
Kuyper said he doesn't see this as a slight to Mitchell, because the event is still being held at the Corn Palace, at least for one day. And we certainly understand that this is Miller's event, and he and event organizers can choose to host it wherever they please.
But wasn't this classic supposed to be about South Dakota basketball and fans of the sport? If Sioux Falls and the state's biggest cities are getting state tournaments, and Mitchell doesn't qualify for those, shouldn't basketball fans get a chance to watch a weekend's slate of games solely at the Corn Palace, where Miller grew up playing the sport?
Kuyper explained the classic, while being played at the Pentagon, has a chance to be televised on ESPN. That's exciting news, but the purpose of the event is to expose South Dakota basketball and give the state's fans something to be excited about, rather than picking up a major-network TV deal.
Basketball fans have shown wind, cold temperatures and blizzards will not stop them from attending the Miller Classic at the Corn Palace. That's already proven. And out-of-state schools have raved about the facility and Mitchell's ability to host.
So, Miller Classic organizers, we must ask one final question: If your game plan is working, why change it? Doesn't seem like smart basketball strategy.