The Tipoff: Despite inroads, seating is our greatest issue

Greetings from Virginia, home to NCAA tournament anarchy.

The first No. 15 seed to advance? Richmond over Syracuse in 1991. Hampton (2001) and Norfolk State (2012) followed, upsetting Iowa State and Missouri, respectively.

Two of the four No. 11s to reach the Final Four, the lowest seeds ever to advance that far, hail from the commonwealth, George Mason in 2006 and VCU in 2011.

And the Rams remain the lone First Four team to make the national semifinals.

Of the 44 at-large selections that finished below .500 in conference, one reached the Final Four: Virginia in 1984.

Speaking of the Cavaliers, perhaps you've heard that in March they became the first No. 1 to lose to a No. 16 as UMBC rolled by 20.

Whether similar bracket wreckage will transpire this season is unknown. What is known is the USBWA's continuing advocacy for all who cover college basketball.

Access, game-day operations and seating have been our primary targets, and thanks to members such as Mark Zeigler (San Diego Union-Tribune), Luke DeCock (Raleigh News & Observer), Kirk Wessler (Peoria Journal Star), Vahe Gregorian (Kansas City Star) and John Akers (Basketball Times), we're making progress.

Our efforts are rooted in the USBWA ad hoc committee that DeCock (seating) and Wessler (access) chaired. Gregorian and Akers took the group's recommendations last year to the NCAA's Basketball Oversight Committee, which then produced a Best Practices Memo for Division I schools.

A USBWA membership survey identified many programs that fall short of the suggested guidelines. The NCAA's Dave Worlock re-sent the memo this year, and we reached out to the schools most mentioned in our survey. Moreover, DeCock (ACC), Wessler (Missouri Valley) and Zeigler (Mountain West, Big 12, Pacific 12 and American Athletic) attended spring meetings to huddle with conference and school reps. Some results:

Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione, a former selection committee chairman and long a media advocate, spoke with his Big 12 colleagues about the best practices and afterward texted Zeigler that they had "a very good and lengthy discussion."

Clemson associate athletic director Joe Galbraith wrote DeCock that the Tigers have expanded what was a limited postgame working space.

Florida State basketball SID Chuck Walsh told De- Cock that media sitting behind fans will be placed on risers this season, with more power outlets and better Wi-Fi.

Senior staffers from Virginia and Virginia Tech assured me of improved access to players and coaches.

Not all was encouraging. Syracuse, where baseline media seating is behind fans and offers no risers, said no changes are planned. And North Carolina, singled out for praise in our member survey, is moving media this season from behind the basket to an upper level.

Indeed, seating is our greatest challenge.

Even schools open to dialogue on other concerns – Clemson, Virginia and Virginia Tech – said their less-than-ideal locations won't be changing. As since-retired Clemson legend Tim Bourret told DeCock, the NCAA's slashing of courtside seats gave schools a green light to sell that real estate, and they're not about to stop.

That said, please know that the NCAA's Worlock and Dan Gavitt have been beyond supportive in our striving to keep the media's remaining courtside locations.

"Overall, I think we made some inroads," Zeigler said of our most recent efforts. "If nothing else, we raised awareness about the best practices and let folks know that we're watching them."

As most of you are aware, Joe Mitch is retiring as the USBWA's executive director after the Final Four in Minneapolis. We hope to choose his successor ASAP, so I encourage anyone interested in the position to call/ email Joe or me.