Wednesday, March 19, 2003

NCAA games will go on despite war


TV still subject to change

The Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS - The NCAA will not postpone or move any men's and women's basketball tournament games or other events if the United States goes to war with Iraq.

"From everything we know right now, it's in the best interests of the country to go forward," NCAA president Myles Brand said Tuesday, a day after telling reporters the NCAA was still exploring options.

The tournament games that begin this week "will go on as scheduled without any changes in time, venue or format," Brand said.

Brand consulted Tuesday with Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge and members of the NCAA's governing bodies before deciding.

"We felt that this was the right decision and have no hesitation whatsoever having made it," he said.

The NCAA has spent four months reviewing options in case of war. The latest ultimatum President Bush delivered to Saddam Hussein in a television speech Monday night "heightened the urgency of our considerations," Brand said

"We are also concerned that life go on as normal," Brand added.

Brand kept open the possibility of reconsidering if unforeseeable threats emerge in coming days.

Because of the current security climate, the NCAA is taking "extraordinary steps to ensure the safety of the athletes and fans," Brand said.

He said it was up to television networks whether their coverage of the tournaments take second billing to war coverage if a U.S.-led coalition attacks Iraq.

CBS holds the rights to the men's tournament.

But the network, which is owned by Viacom, has discussed switching the games to ESPN or other outlets if CBS needs more air time for war coverage.

ESPN and ESPN2 already are scheduled to show the women's tournament.

The first men's game, a play-in contest, was Tuesday night.

The rest of the first round begins Thursday.

The women's tournament begins Saturday.


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