SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — The Summit League basketball tournaments will be held without fans and games will be moved to the Sanford Pentagon due to health and safety concerns amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, conference commissioner Tom Douple announced Thursday, Jan. 14.
"I'm disappointed for our fans and the student-athletes, it's just become such a terrific environment there at the Premier Center," NDSU head men's basketball coach David Richman said. "The Summit League and the (Sioux Falls) Sports Authority, they do a terrific job. Yet the louder message is, I get it. Not only do we get it, we support it. The health and safety has to be at the forefront of everything we're doing right now."
The tournament is still slated to be played from March 6-9, its originally scheduled dates.
“As the Summit League’s Commissioner, I never imagined that the League would be making an announcement like this one," Douple said in a news release. "It is with deep disappointment, yet an equally deep amount of conviction that we came to this conclusion because the health, safety, and welfare of our student-athletes, coaches, administrators, fans, and the Sioux Falls community remain our highest priorities.
“This decision was not made lightly, knowing that fan attendance has been a key driving force in raising interest in the Summit League Basketball Championships. However, after a review of the current environment and the potential impact of bringing 16 teams and all their constituents into one site, it became a necessary decision.”
The tournament was moved from the Denny Sanford Premier Center to the smaller Sanford Pentagon, which allows for all tournament operations, including practices, to be accommodated in one facility.
“In a multi-team event like our championships, one positive test along with contact tracing requirements has the potential to eliminate several teams from moving forward and mitigating those risks was paramount in the decision-making process,” Douple said.
The Bison have won the previous two Summit League men's tournaments to advance to the NCAA Division I tournament. Last season's NCAA tournament was canceled due to COVID-19.
This year's Summit League tournament will have a different feel.
"It's just the full experience of it and the fans really make that experience," Richman said. "That being said at the very end of it, there is still going to be a champion and all the eight teams there are going to be under the same parameters. As much as we'd like to have the fans there and have them be part of the experience, there's going to be no excuses from our end."
The past six Summit League tournaments were held at the Denny Sanford Premier Center. The tournament is set to return to that facility next season.
All 14 games will still be carried live across MidcoSN and ESPN linear and digital platforms.
Ticket holders will receive information next week about their options, according to the release.