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Brand: It's proper, appropriate to play

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. "We see no reason, after consulting with Secretary Ridge,
to make any alterations to our plan."

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.

The 12,000-seat Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena is among 13
sites where men's games are being played. The women's games will be
spread among 21 venues.

For the second consecutive year, the NCAA has enhanced security
for the tournaments.

"We have some assignments and other security plans that are
unusual for the Arena, but expected for the NCAA Tournament
sites," Spokane Deputy Police Chief Al Odenthal said.

Fans will be subject to searches as they enter the building.

Items that will be prohibited include large bags, backpacks and
large purses; firearms, explosives and other weapons; cans and
coolers; artificial noisemakers; large signs, flags, sticks, poles,
banners and laser pointers; video cameras on game days; and food or
beverages.

Fans will not be allowed to re-enter the building after leaving.

While large signs, flags or banners will not be allowed in the
building, not all signs of expression will be kept out.

Donna Noonan, vice president for Division I women's basketball,
said in a telephone interview with The Spokesman-Review on Monday
that forms of expression will be protected.

"If it's something that says 'peace, no war,' you're exercising
your right of freedom of speech and we understand that," Noonan
said.

Noonan said the object of the security policies is to make the
fans and players as safe as possible.

"Clearly, our first priority above all is the safety of the
student athlete, the coaches, the players and the fans," Noonan
said. "That's our No. 1 thing regardless of anything else. That
will be our first consideration in any decision we make."

Besides the basketball events, other NCAA tournaments that could
coincide with a war include wrestling, men's and women's swimming
and diving, and men's and women's ice hockey.