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NCAA, MGM Resorts blame promoter for sub-par Vegas women’s tournament

The controversial Las Vegas Invitational women’s basketball tournament was advertised by organizers as a stay-and-play package at The Mirage, highlighting the convenience factor.

But an unsatisfactory event setup in a ballroom at The Mirage and a lack of medical staff on hand when a scary situation unfolded undercut that convenience and led to a backlash on social media over the weekend.

Both MGM Resorts, which operates The Mirage, and the NCAA said they had no role in the tournament’s operations, with that being the responsibility of the event’s promoter, Destination Basketball.

A Nevada Athletic Commission spokesperson said it also had no role in the tournament as it doesn’t regulate sporting events outside of combat sports.

Destination Basketball’s website was deactivated as of Tuesday, and representatives did not return requests for comment.

A backdated version of Destination Basketball’s homepage from August lists the Las Vegas Invitational attendees and notes they’re able to stay at The Mirage, where the games were played, saying, “Enjoy the convenience. It doesn’t get any easier.”

For many involved it was anything but convenient.

The basketball court was set up in a ballroom at The Mirage that lacked bleacher seating, and the only seating option for fans in attendance were chairs scattered about. Participants said they were promised a much different setup than the one provided for the event.

“This is not what was described to us as far as what the venue was going to look like, what the setup was going to look like,” Indiana women’s basketball head coach Teri Moren told ESPN.

An NCAA spokeswoman told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that in addition to having no role in the event’s operation, the group did not sponsor the tournament.

The NCAA also doesn’t certify the operation of multiple team events, the spokeswoman said, but it does have rules for how such events should operate.

One section included in the NCAA’s guidelines for women’s basketball games highlights expected safety elements. That section notes having access to proper medical assistance on site if care is needed, before, during or after a game.

That became an issue Saturday when Auburn Tigers player Kharyssa Richardson suffered an apparent head injury during the team’s game against Colorado State.

With no on-site paramedic available, there was an approximately 50-minute wait for medical personnel to arrive at the scene to tend to Richardson, according to multiple reports.

An Auburn university spokesman said Sunday that Richardson had been cleared to leave the hospital and travel back home.

The medical problem delayed the day’s second matchup, Indiana-Memphis, by 90 minutes. The two schools agreed the game should go on despite the issues, saying they felt safe enough to continue.

MGM Resorts said the event was operated by Destination Basketball and on-site director Ryan Polk, not the resort, and said it did not meet its standards.

“MGM Resorts and The Mirage did not organize, operate, or sponsor the Las Vegas Invitational,” a MGM Resorts spokesman said in a statement. “Mr. Polk was the site coordinator and was responsible for all aspects of this tournament. All decisions about seating, the configuration of the venue and details such as the presence of emergency medical personnel and security were his responsibility. The Mirage contracted with Mr. Polk to provide the ballroom, hotel rooms for participants and attendees, and certain food and beverage catering, all of which were provided as required. Mr. Polk is not affiliated with MGM Resorts or The Mirage, and we will not be working with his company on future events.”

Destination Basketball has an active limited liability company out of Ohio with Bryce McKey noted as its registrant. Neither McKey nor Polk responded to requests for comment on the tournament.

Destination Basketball’s backdated website shows it was set to host another two-day tournament at The Mirage on Dec. 20-21. A MGM spokesperson said that the event is not taking place at the resort.

Moren, Indiana women’s basketball coach, had strong words regarding the situation, which doesn’t bode well for the company to host a similar event next month.

“It’s not a fan-friendly environment,” Moren said. “We are trying to move our game forward. I feel like because it got so many ticks on social (media) that we had taken a couple steps backwards in this moment.”

Contact Mick Akers at makers@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2920. Follow @mickakers on Twitter.

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