NICEVILLE, FLA. — In the spring of 2012 Maury Hanks, founder and president of Global Sports, received a phone call from Steve Forbes, the highly successful men’s basketball coach at Northwest Florida State College.
Forbes had known about Hanks’ reputation for hosting college basketball tournaments and thought Northwest Florida State would be a great site for a potential future tournament.
“Steve (Forbes) and I have been friends for more than 25 years,” said Hanks. “Steve raved about The Arena and what a great facility it would be for both participating teams and fans.”
From that telephone conversation until today the Emerald Coast Classic has developed into what national publication Bleacher Report calls the third strongest preseason college basketball tournament in the nation this season.
Through the combined efforts of Hanks and Global Sports and administrators from Northwest Florida State College, this annual event held every Thanksgiving weekend has turned into one of the premier sporting events in the area, attracting top college basketball teams from the best conferences in the nation: The Atlantic Coast Conference, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12 as well as the Southeastern Conference.
A quick look back into history only serves as further testimony with past champs including Virginia which had several starters from its 2016 champion team lead the Cavaliers to the 2019 Final Four title; as well as Cincinnati (2018), TCU (2017), Iowa State (2015) and Ole Miss (2014).
The annual economic impact to the community is estimated at $1.7 million.
“The partnership between Global Sports and Northwest Florida State College has been a tremendous experience for the college and the community we serve,” said Ramsey Ross, the athletic director at Northwest Florida State. “Not only has it allowed Northwest Florida to showcase our fantastic facilities on a national stage, it has helped with recruitment and has made a great economic impact on the community.
“We are proud of how the Emerald Coast Classic has developed into one of the premier holiday tournaments in the country and we look forward to continuing our relationship with Global Sports for many years to come.”
The sixth annual Emerald Coast Classic Nov. 29-30 promises to be the best yet with local fan favorite Florida State appearing along with Purdue, Tennessee and VCU. The tournament sold out within 48 hours after tickets went on sale. All four teams competed in the 2019 NCAA Tournament with Tennessee and Florida State advancing to the Sweet 16 while Purdue advanced to the Elite Eight.
“This is a first class national level event unparalleled in quality as far as the teams it brings in and the competition level,” said Dan Shugart, longtime sports director at WEAR TV. “I think it’s obviously the premier collegiate sporting event around.”
The eight-team tournament has gained a reputation as one of the best in the NCAA showcasing top talent that annually attracts several NBA scouts. The tournament also draws national media exposure to the Emerald Coast with CBS Sports Network televising both the semifinal and championship rounds.
“Since we started this tournament, it has always been a goal to make the Emerald Coast Classic one of the premier preseason college basketball tournaments in the country,” said Hanks. “What these teams (Florida State, Purdue, Tennessee, VCU) accomplished last season only enhances the quality of our tournament field.
“The showing by these teams has generated a lot of enthusiasm for our tournament from local area fans.“