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Monday, March 17
Updated: March 18, 7:55 AM ET
If war begins this week, NCAA might postpone games

Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS -- The NCAA will carefully explore all of its options in deciding whether to postpone the men's and women's basketball tournaments if the United States goes to war with Iraq this week.

Hockey fans cheer Bush
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Between the second and third periods of the Philadelphia Flyers' NHL game at the New Jersey Devils, a portion of President Bush's address to the nation was played for the crowd at the Continental Airlines Arena.

Cheers erupted five times, the loudest when Bush announced that Saddam Hussein had 48 hours to leave Iraq and when the president finished. Seconds later a chant of "U-S-A, U-S-A, U-S-A" echoed through the building.
-- Associated Press

"We have to arrive at a position that makes the most sense for the NCAA, but we don't want a tyrant to run our lives," NCAA president Myles Brand said Monday night.

The NCAA men's tournament would be the first big sports event affected by any conflict in Iraq. The first game, between North Carolina-Asheville and Texas Southern, is scheduled for Tuesday night in Dayton, Ohio.

The rest of 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.

The women's tournament begins Saturday.

Brand acknowledged Monday for the first time that the NCAA was checking the availability of arenas and hotels for the days after first and second-round games are scheduled to be completed. That would give the officials more flexibility in making a decision about postponements for the basketball tournaments -- and other national championships.

"We don't know when it will start, and we have to be respectful of our men and women in uniform," Brand said following an NCAA town hall meeting on sportsmanship that was sponsored by Indianapolis television station WISH.

"On the other hand, I think we have to be very careful not to let Saddam Hussein control our lives. We have to balance those," he said.

The primary consideration, Brand said, would be the safety of the athletes and fans.

Brand -- then president at Indiana University -- and the NCAA faced similar decisions in 2001 following the Sept. 11 attacks on New York City and the Pentagon -- weighing security against urgings to maintain normality amid fears of terrorism.

Then, Brand postponed the Hoosiers' football game against Kentucky. The next day, the NCAA called off all of its events scheduled that weekend.

This time, Brand said that any decision would be made in consultation with federal authorities and security officials and that his office would make the final call.

Brand said his office has been in contact with the Homeland Security Department and security officials as it finishes contingency plans. He declined to give details about the plans, saying they would be announced as events take place.

He also said there has been no determination about changes in television coverage.

CBS holds the rights to the men's tournament, but the network, which is owned by Viacom, has discussed switching the games to ESPN if CBS needs more air time for war coverage.

ESPN and ESPN2 already are scheduled to show the women's tournament. NCAA vice president Donna Noonan said Sunday that she had been assured by ESPN that the women's games would not be affected.

If a deal cannot be reached with ESPN, the games could be shown on other Viacom-owned networks such as such as MTV, UPN, BET or TNN.

Brand said other championships, such as those in men's and women's swimming and diving and men's and women's ice hockey, would also have to be considered.

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