SAN DIEGO -- The arena for the first-round NCAA men's
Tournament game between Alabama and Marquette was temporarily
evacuated Thursday after bomb-sniffing dogs detected "something
strange" on a food vendor's cart about two hours before tipoff.
After the FBI, police and security officials checked, the
all-clear was given at Cox Arena nearly two hours later. The game
began at 12:50 p.m. -- 70 minutes after the original start time.
"Ultimately, after a period of time, it was determined that
there was not a hazard, explosive, biohazard, whatever you would
like to call it, associated with that cart," said Lt. Robert
McManus, incident commander for the San Diego State police
The large silver cart, filled with condiments, straws and paper
towels among other items, initially drew the suspicion of one dog,
McManus said. Another dog detected the same thing.
"Two other dogs were brought in and they didn't smell it," he
FBI spokeswoman Jan Caldwell initially said the dogs detected a
package inside a 4-by-6-inch condiment container in the cart
located on the upper concourse of San Diego State's arena. A bomb
robot was sent to the scene, she said.
"Ultimately, there was not an object. It was the cart in
general that was under suspicion when the dogs alerted on it,"
McManus said. He said investigators were not sure what the first
two dogs detected.
The dogs are trained by the Transportation Security
Administration and have worked on presidential visits to San Diego,
Investigators removed the cart from the arena.
"Not because we thought it was still a hazard," McManus said.
"We just want to double-check and see if we can determine what
substance, if any, the dog alerted on."
The days' other three games at Cox Arena were expected to begin
only a few minutes behind schedule, said Chris Hill, a member of
the NCAA Division I basketball committee.
"We will continue to remain vigilant in our security planning
throughout our tournament, and the safety and security of our
student-athletes, teams and fans is paramount," the NCAA said in a
Fans and officials were originally told to gather behind a
parking structure across the street. That structure was closed
during the investigation.
Players and staff from Alabama and Marquette stayed at their
hotels until they were told it was OK to enter the arena.
The FBI warned last week of a recent Internet posting discussing
terrorists attacks aimed at college basketball arenas and other
sports stadiums, but also said there were no specific or credible
Authorities were alerted at 9:18 a.m., before the scheduled 10
a.m. opening of the arena, and evacuated a "handful" of vendors
who were inside, said Maurice Luque, a spokesman for the San Diego
The bomb-sniffing dogs belonged to a private security company
hired by the NCAA, said Detective Gary Hassen, a spokesman for the
San Diego Police Department.