War could postpone NCAA games

Posted: Tuesday, March 18, 2003

INDIANAPOLIS -- The NCAA will consider postponing games in the men's and women's basketball tournaments and other national championships if war with Iraq begins this week.

President Myles Brand acknowledged Monday for the first time that the NCAA was checking the availability of arenas and hotels for the days after first and second-round games are scheduled to be completed. That would give the officials more flexibility in making a decision about postponements.

''We don't know when it will start, and we have to be respectful of our men and women in uniform,'' Brand said following an NCAA town hall meeting on sportsmanship that was sponsored by Indianapolis television station WISH.

''On the other hand, I think we have to be very careful not to let Saddam Hussein control our lives. We have to balance those,'' he said.

The primary consideration, Brand said, would be the safety of the athletes and fans.

Brand said his office has been in contact with the Homeland Security Department and security officials as it finishes contingency plans. He declined to give details, saying they would be announced as events take place.

He also said there has been no determination about changes in television coverage.

CBS holds the rights to the men's tournament, but the network, which is owned by Viacom, has discussed switching the games to ESPN if CBS needs more air time for war coverage.

ESPN and ESPN2 already are scheduled to show the women's tournament. NCAA vice president Donna Noonan said Sunday she had been assured by ESPN that the women's games would not be affected.

If a deal cannot be reached with ESPN, the games could be shown on other Viacom-owned networks such as such as MTV, UPN, BET or TNN.

''We're doing a lot of planning, but we don't know what direction it will go,'' Brand said.

The NCAA men's tournament would be the first big sports event affected by any conflict in Iraq. The first game, between North Carolina-Asheville and Texas Southern, is scheduled for Tuesday night in Dayton, Ohio.

The rest of the first round begins Thursday, which would be after the 48-hour deadline President Bush set Monday night for Hussein to leave Iraq or face war.

The women's tournament begins Saturday.

Brand said other championships, such as those in men's and women's swimming and diving, and men's and women's ice hockey, would also have to be considered. Any decisions would be made in consultation with federal authorities and security officials. Brand's office would make the final call.

''We have to arrive at a position that makes the most sense for the NCAA,'' he said. ''But we don't want a tyrant to run our lives.''

Following the Sept. 11 attacks on New York City and the Pentagon, Brand, then president at Indiana University, postponed the Hoosiers' football game against Kentucky.

The next day, the NCAA called off all its events scheduled for that weekend.



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