Tournament games will go on, NCAA says

Wednesday, March 19, 2003

The NCAA will not postpone the men's and women's basketball tournaments if the United States goes to war with Iraq this week, the organization's president said Tuesday.

The tournament will go ahead as scheduled after tournament officials consulted with Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, NCAA president Myles Brand said.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the young men and women who are in the desert and elsewhere defending our freedom," Brand said. "We are also concerned that life go on as normal."

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

What isn't clear is which network will broadcast the games.

ESPN is breaking new ground by televising all 63 games of the NCAA women's basketball tournament, a commitment the network says won't waver, even if it takes men's games from CBS.

CBS and ESPN have discussed the possibility of the sports network carrying games from the men's tournament if CBS goes to full-time news coverage of the war.

CBS could shift the games to another of the networks owned by CBS' parent company, Viacom. Other Viacom networks include MTV, UPN, BET, TNN, VH1, CMT, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central and TV Land.

ESPN has other events on its weekend schedule as well, including the NBA on Friday night, the LPGA on Saturday and Sunday and tennis on Sunday. The cable network also might have to take an NHL game, another NBA game and auto racing if ABC goes to full war coverage -- but not at the expense of the women's tournament, the network said.

-- AP

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