Gary Blair is thrilled to be part of the Maggie Dixon Classic again.
The women's coach at Texas A&M didn't hesitate to say yes when TCU men's coach Jaime Dixon called to see if the Aggies would be willing to host the annual event. Their matchup with TCU on Wednesday will serve as this year's game in honor of Dixon's late sister, Maggie, the former Army women's coach who died in 2006 of a heart arrhythmia.
Blair participated in the Classic twice when it was held at Madison Square Garden in New York. One time his team went on to win the national championship later that season. The other time, the Aggies lost in the NCAA regional final.
"Wish we had a doubleheader here," Blair said. "We had four teams in it before, but I think that would be hard for us to draw for that other game, if we were having it on a campus site. When it was in New York, people loved to travel there. We need to keep it going to honor a wonderful young coach who left too soon."
The 21st-ranked Aggies will have a big crowd Wednesday for their matinee against TCU, which was already slated as a day game to attract elementary schools. Blair said the school will pass out pamphlets to the kids to recognize Maggie Dixon, and Texas A&M will have its large military presence on hand.
"It's going to work out, we'll have 8,000-plus at the game," Blair said. "That's a quality game and it's going to be fun."
Jaime Dixon won't be able to attend because his men's team plays the night before. His mom and sister will be there, though.
"My family goes; they've been there every year. Julie, my sister, is a big part of it," Dixon said in a phone interview. "She's been behind the heart and health fair that revolves around the event. She's always put that all together. She works that aspect of it this year. We won't have the same amount of involvement."
Dixon is glad the game will feature TCU. He recalled how his sister used to watch him play for the Horned Frogs when he was in college.
"She was 12 years younger and she used to come watch me play at TCU," Dixon said. "She might have been like 6 or 7 years old and that was one of her first basketball memories."
The Classic began in 2006 when the inaugural event was played on Army's campus. Dixon brought his Pittsburgh men's team to play in the first game, and the Army women faced Ohio State to complete the doubleheader. The event has since been played exclusively between women's teams.
"Maggie represented everything that is good in our sport," TCU women's coach Raegan Pebley said. "Her enthusiasm, her mindset, her commitment, her family all are what made her uncommon and special. It is truly an honor to compete in the Maggie Dixon Classic and we are grateful for the opportunity."
The game was moved to Madison Square Garden for 10 years before being played at St. John's last season.
"We'll continue it," Jaime Dixon said. "Find the best venue, best time and that's always a challenge. Doing the scheduling with men, it's a challenge. Same with women, getting two people on the same date at a neutral facility is always a battle."
"It's important to keep it going," he added. "The best teams in the country call us every year to be in it. I've just been a little stubborn wanting to keep it in the Garden. I'm glad that Texas A&M was willing to host it this year."