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Fans allowed at WAC tournament until final decision Thursday

Updated March 11, 2020 - 10:10 pm

Western Athletic Conference presidents and athletic directors will decide Thursday whether fans will be allowed to watch the rest of the tournament games at Orleans Arena.

The tournament opened Wednesday with women’s games being played before sparse crowds, and the men are to begin play at noon Thursday.

Wednesday’s final game between Cal State-Bakersfield and Grand Canyon was postponed until 9:30 a.m. Thursday because of a medical situation, the WAC said in a statement. No other details were provided.

Because of the coronavirus outbreak, the NCAA announced Wednesday it would be playing its men’s and women’s tournaments pretty much without fans. Only selected family members will be able to see March Madness games at the arenas.

Also on Wednesday, the Pac-12 announced it would play the remaining three days of its men’s tournament at T-Mobile Arena without fans.

The WAC women’s tournament opened Wednesday with Missouri-Kansas City’s 86-52 win over Chicago State before about 150 fans.

Seattle is among the American cities affected most by the coronavirus, and Seattle University is one of the teams playing in the WAC tournaments. Redhawks athletic director Shaney Fink said the school didn’t consider withdrawing and added Wednesday that “we’re in the same boat that everybody’s in, just trying to monitor what’s going on and making the best decisions for the students.

“There’s an urgency to it. And it’s such an amazing part of their experience to be participating in athletics. You want to honor that as much as possible. Let them continue to experience that,” Fink said, noting that the school’s decisions have been in line with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, city and state. “So balancing the reality of the situation with the fact that they have this sliver of opportunity. Certainly heath and safety is the concern, but it matters. We love this, and this is what they do.”

UMKC coach Jacie Hoyt said after her team’s victory the Roos have barely discussed the coronavirus and are proceeding normally.

“We’re here on business. We’re not going to change anything that we’ve done all year long or the last couple years that we’ve been here,” Hoyt said. “Just focused on what we can control, and the rest is really not anything that we’re worried about.”

Boyd Gaming operates Orleans Arena, which has installed additional hand sanitizer dispensers throughout the building and employed “enhanced cleaning practices throughout our property, including frequent sanitizing of touch points like door handles, elevator buttons, tabletops and handrails,” according to the hotel’s website.

The WAC also distributes general admission tickets for its tournaments, meaning spectators can sit in designated areas as opposed to designated seats and have more space available to them.

Semifinal play for both tournaments is scheduled for Friday, with championship play Saturday.

Contact reporter Sam Gordon at sgordon@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BySamGordon on Twitter.

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