“To be or not to be, that is the question” are the famous words in one of Shakespeare most famous plays “Hamlet” and the endearing words stay true to what several fans, players and authorities have asked regarding the UPAC Finals venue over the years.
Since 2015, the Universities, Polytechnics and Colleges (UPAC) Basketball Championship has been an annually celebration of basketball at the tertiary education level in Ghana. The inaugural edition of the celebrated tournament was in 2011 and multiple changes have taken place since; ranging from an increase in the number of participating institutions to the variety and depth of experiences of fans and players alike.
However, one constant has remained through the years and that is the host venue for the competition’s final round of games. The country’s premier University, the University of Ghana (UG) has hosted semifinal games and final games for the only tournament that has representation from all three sects at the tertiary level.
Along the way, the host institution has won four titles in a row including two over bitter rival Accra Technical University (ATU) in 2016 and 2018. The flash point of debate emanates from the controversial 2016 Finals UG beat ATU 45-44 to clinch the first of its four titles with ATU supporters firmly believing the hostile crowd at the venue played a role in a controversial call that cost them a shot at scoring the game’s final basket.
To be or not to be, was the opening line of a soliloquy of the play’s main character Prince Hamlet who contemplated committing suicide when going through a frustrating phase in his life. Judging by the actions and comments by folks on the other side of the fence, they are clearly frustrated by the sight of UG’s Main Court in the latter stages of the UPAC to the extent some have even contemplated not participating. Six UPAC editions later, the question is why UG as the Finals Host?
For starters, the institution solves the biggest problem with organizing basketball competitions with large representation in Ghana; logistics. UG has two courts which solves the problem of catering to honouring several games in the space of a few days. 32 institutions compete in the UPAC annually across eight zones with each zone having four teams.
The zonal winners converge at UG for the national games in an all play all format in two groups with four teams in each group. The top two teams progress to the semifinals to determine the final rankings in the tournament; the semifinal games, third place game and final game are also played at the University’s Main Courts.
UG has upgraded its facilities by improving lighting at the facility and the amenity came in handy during the recently held GUSA Games where matches traveled into the night. With organizers keen to have games played with stop clocks as much as possible in the upcoming edition, improved lighting is a necessity.
Conversely, after hosting six Finals and a lot of semifinal and quarterfinal games, a certain level of staleness has enveloped the UPAC National Host Venue. Switching the final four games of the competition (semis, bronze medal game and final game) to another venue-ATU, Aviation Social Center or El Wak Stadium-would breathe new life into the contest’s final days; UG’s multiple courts could host the avalanche of matchups at the quarterfinal stage.
Moving the latter four games in the competition to a different location also calms fears of being on the wrong side of decisions from referees from competing teams. Naysayers in UG’s ability to win away from its fortress at the UPAC level would test their beliefs since results recorded over the years indicate that is far from the case.
Sandwiched between four UPAC titles, UG has won two All Africa University Games held in South Africa and Ethiopia and the 2016 GUSA Games held at the University of Education-Winneba. However, switching venues goes a long way to kill the perception that UG’s wins are as a result of being the home team.
The 2020 UPAC starts on March 7 and is expected to end on April 18; this represents a big opportunity for the change at the latter stages of the competition to happen. Would that happen this year, that is the question. Should the change happen, would it result in an end to UG’s streak of four UPAC titles in a row? That is the question.
By Yaw Adjei-Mintah
@YawMintYM on Twitter