Pictured above, Holly Kesterson, Judge Vanessa Gilmore, Tony Chase, and Michael Heckman.

Image: Jenn Duncan

Clutch City has seen an influx of live and in-person events and festivals return to the city post-quarantine, and college basketball will take center stage when the NCAA Final Four makes its return to Houston in 2023.   

Last week, Mayor Turner, alongside the Houston Local Organizing Committee, and NCAA executives and coaches proudly announced the Men's Final Four will claim Houston as its home in 2023, marking the fourth time the annual basketball tournament was hosted in H-Town. According to a release, the flagship event was previously hosted in Houston in the years 1971, 2011, and 2016.

"We are thrilled to bring the Final Four back to the city of Houston, which has a rich history of hosting the event. It was 50 years ago when UCLA won its fifth consecutive national title," explains Dan Gavitt, NCAA senior vice president of men's basketball. "Ten years ago, it was UConn cutting down the nets at NRG Stadium, followed five years later by the classic Villanova-North Carolina title game that will go down as one of the great conclusions to a championship game in sports history."

The new NCAA Final Four logo. 

The announcement is a historical marker for the city as Houston's four local higher education institutions. Houston Baptist University, Rice University, Texas Southern University and the University of Houston will be the first tetrad to host the Final Four. In honor of the championship games coming to the Lone Star State, the NCAA revamped the Final Four logo, inspired by all things Texas. The logo features a red, white, and blue color scheme with the emblem's shape evocative of a NASA mission patch and four stars that doubly represent the fourth time Houston has hosted the series. The four Houston teams that will participate are also on the image. "The logo is uniquely tailored to represent the fourth largest city in America and its spirit of exploration and entrepreneurialism," the release notes. 

Gavitt tells Houstonia, that Houston has consistently proven itself to be a great city to host the Final Four, noting the city brings "enthusiasm, inclusiveness, and a spirit of innovation and hospitality."

President of the Houston Local Organizing Committee, Holly Kesterson described how unique bringing the contest back to Houston is, as the NCAA canceled the 2020 bid due to the coronavirus. "The unveiling of this logo marks something really special for us," Kesterson said in a statement. "It’s a tipoff to the 16 months of excitement leading to the tournament in 2023."

In the next 16 months, Kesterson and the NCAA will work alongside a slew of local organizations to ensure that the forthcoming competition is a safe and enjoyable experience for all who attend. It's likely the Final Four will be a remarkable event, as the 2016 tournament held in Houston garnered 149,845 attendees, which currently holds the second-highest attendance in Men’s Final Four history, per a release.

"Now, in just 16 months, Houston will be the center of the college basketball universe again. We are thrilled to bring the Final Four back to Houston in 2023 and look forward to the tournament and its ancillary events creating countless memories for Houstonians and visitors alike," Gavitt concludes. 

The NCAA Men's Final Four will take place from March 31 through April 3, 2023, at the NRG Center. For more information, visit NCAA.com/MensFinalFour.

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