NCAA President Brand says that all NCAA championship events scheduled for this weekend will go on as

By John Fuller | March 18, 2003, 12 a.m. (ET)
Indianapolis, Ind. - NCAA President Myles Brand announced on Tuesday evening that all NCAA championship events scheduled for this weekend will go on as planned, including the Division I Wrestling Championships in Kansas City, Mo. at Kemper Arena. "The NCAA men's basketball championships, along with the nine other NCAA championships taking place this weekend, will go on as scheduled in time, venue and format," Brand said in a national teleconference. Brand indicated that he received unanimous support for the decision from the NCAA Executive Committee and the Division I Board of Directors. NCAA officials had discussed putting into place a contingency plan that could have included the postponement of some of the NCAA championship events for this weekend after the U.S. gave Iraq President Saddam Hussein a 48-hour deadline to flee his country or face an invasion from the United States and its allies. According to Brand, the NCAA, U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige and U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge have discussed contingency plans for the past four months concerning NCAA championship events if the U.S. were to go to war. "We wanted to be assured, and we were, that the leadership in the White House felt that our student-athletes and fans would be safe at these events," Brand said. "The student-athlete was primarily in our minds. We felt they were safe and well-focused as well," Brand added. "It is in the best interest of the country to go forward." Brand stated that the only factor involved in the decision to not postpone the events was the safety of the student-athletes and the fans, not the fact that thousands of student-athletes and fans will be traveling either by air or land to these events. Brand would not comment on specific security measures that will be taken at this weekend's championship events as well as future NCAA championship events, but did say that they have "assured the safety of the student-athletes and the fans." He added that "Our thoughts and prayers are with the men and women in uniform involved in the Iraqi conflict and elsewhere. We will not let a tyrant determine how we lead our lives." On Monday night, President George W. Bush issued a deadline of 48 hours for Hussein and his sons to leave Iraq. The deadline could pass, and war begin, prior to the first whistle of the wrestling championships on Thursday at 11:00 a.m. Central time. 330 wrestlers will compete at the Division I Wrestling Championships this weekend. Kemper Arena will seat nearly 17,000 for every session of the event as fans will travel from all over the country to attend. At the exact time that Brand was holding his press conference, the NCAA Wrestling Championships activities began with the NCAA YES Clinic. Over 300 youth wrestlers came to Kemper Arena for a free clinic with many of the nation's best wrestling coaches on Tuesday night. Many of those at the arena were in favor of moving forward with the Championships if the United States goes to war in Iraq prior to the start of the tournament. "I'd like to think that the powers-that-be would say let's continue to live our lives and go about our business," said VMI head coach John Trudgeon. "We are in full support of our president and our troops. I just don't think anybody should stop living." "When do you start doing it again?" asked Northwestern head coach Tim Cysewski. "With the kids missing classes and all the airline tickets bought, it is not conducive right now. We are here now. We are not here to adjust to somebody else's schedule. Like the president said, we should go about our business as normal. This is as normal as we can do." "I think especially at times like these, you need these events to elevate the human spirit and divert our attention," said Oklahoma head coach Jack Spates. Brand's announcement meant that at least for the time being, wrestling will go on, even if our nation goes to war. Other tournaments scheduled for this weekend are men's and women's fencing, Division III men's swimming, Division I wrestling, Division I women's swimming, Division III men's ice hockey, national collegiate women's ice hockey, Division III women's ice hockey, Division III men's and women's basketball.