Four Denton County residents are extending Texas hospitality to two of the four teams in North Texas this week for the NCAA men’s Final Four.
Denton residents Roy Busby and his wife, Jo Ann Ballantine, Chris Curtis of Flower Mound and Kevin Faciane of Argyle are among a group of eight serving as volunteer hosts to players from the four universities who’ve traveled to North Texas this week to compete in the Final Four.
The hosts are alumni from the four largest universities in North Texas — the University of North Texas, Texas Christian University, Southern Methodist University and the University of Texas at Arlington. The semifinals are Saturday and the championship game is Monday at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.
Busby and Ballantine, alumni from UNT, are the team hosts to the University of Connecticut Huskies, while Curtis and Faciane, TCU alums, are hosts to the University of Kentucky Wildcats. In addition to team host duties, Curtis, chief executive officer for Argyle-based GoVision, an LED video screen provider, is also providing screens for eight venues throughout North Texas for the Final Four this week.
Representing SMU as team hosts to the University of Florida Gators are Dallas attorneys Greg Ackels and his nephew Edward Ackels. UTA alums serving as team hosts to the University of Wisconsin Badgers this week are Clifford Hahne and Mike Leathers.
“We’re just kind of their on-the-ground experts for the North Texas area,” said Faciane, executive vice president for Mid-Cities Services Inc. and Argyle school board president. “I think it’s an honor to be able to represent your community. That’s a real honor especially in a high-profile event like this. I’m a former college athlete, and a huge collegiate sports fan so to be so close to an event of this magnitude and get to take a peek under the tent so to speak. ... It’s a thrill for me.”
As a primary point of contact for teams, the hosts are spending this week at the Dallas hotels hosting their respective teams, and they say they’re available to offer suggestions for just about everything including dinners, activities for the athletes and families. They’ll also field questions about everything from laundry to shopping, and will assist if needed in the hospitality rooms.
It’s a full-time task that Busby, associate dean at UNT’s Frank W. and Sue Mayborn School of Journalism, said has kept his phone and iPad “blowing up all day.”
“It’s really amazing. There’s a long list of different things we can do,” said Ballantine, former vice president for the Denton Convention and Visitors Bureau. “It’s just any and everything. The whole Dallas-Fort Worth region has so much to offer and we’re not suggesting anything special but we will guide them.”
Ken Luce, chairman for the team host committee, said “the overall purpose of the team host ... is to make sure that our teams, their players, their faculty have the best hospitable experience they can in Dallas.”
The idea of local hosts for the Final Four originated the last time the tournament was in North Texas, when it was in Dallas 28 years ago. Real estate developer John Scovell got the idea from his dad’s game book. Field Scovell, known as “Mr. Cotton Bowl,” used local hosts for the annual classic at Fair Park for decades.
“The first time Joe Paterno played in the Cotton Bowl [in 1972], I was assigned to Penn State,” Scovell says. “That was the model for 1986. It wasn’t any brainstorm. My training came from my daddy, too. He said, ‘You know, John, we don’t have palm trees, oceans or Bourbon Street. But we’ve got hospitality. That’s what we’ve got to sell.’”
It was such a hit with the NCAA that every Final Four host city since then has been asked to provide local hosts.
This year’s team hosts got a dry run at the job serving as team hosts to teams who traveled to North Texas last year for the 2013 South Regional tournament.
Last weekend, Curtis traveled to Indianapolis to make contact with the Wildcats after they defeated Michigan, and Busby and Ballantine were in New York City to witness the Huskies defeat Michigan State and punch their ticket to the Final Four.
Busby said his first contact with many individuals from the Huskies team was in New York. When the team arrived in North Texas earlier this week, he said, he was already on a first-name basis with several people.
“We were like old friends,” Busby said.
Curtis said he’s excited to be a host for the Final Four and hope to provide a nice visit to North Texas for the individuals he’s hosting.
“The Final Four is one of my favorite events,” he said. “It’s just an awesome experience to get to represent the metroplex to the teams coming in, and we just hope the teams have a great experience while they’re here.”
This report includes material from The Dallas Morning News.
BRITNEY TABOR can be reached at 940-566-6876 and via Twitter at @BritneyTabor.