Despite growing concerns surrounding the spread of the novel coronavirus, the University of Portland will still host the 2020 OSAA 6A Basketball State Championships from Wednesday, March 11 through Saturday, March 14 at the Chiles Center. The event draws thousands of people every year, with attendance in 2017’s event being 25,668 people.
While they are still hosting the tournament as normal, Senior Associate Athletic Director Jason Brough says that extra sanitation stations have been placed throughout the Chiles Center and Physical Plant has taken on more cleaning measures and extra rounds of cleaning. Brough said that UP athletics has been in constant communication with local city health professionals about whether any changes are needed.
OSAA and other health officials will determine whether or not there are any changes made to the tournament schedule.
“Basically just taking our direction from the health professionals on what we need to do,” Brough said. “And if anything changes just staying in touch with them and making sure that’s being filtered down to our facilities folks and going from there.”
Brough acknowledged that COVID-19 is something that both UP athletics and OSAA haven’t had to navigate before and that the concern is there. However, the concern mostly comes from the uncertainty of not dealing with this kind of situation before.
“This is kind of uncharted waters in a lot of ways,” Brough said. “Everybody is looking to the local health officials as well as state health officials on direction as they’re going to be the ones who know best … If stuff comes down, whether it’s directions or whether it’s ‘Hey, we got to change midstream,’ who knows what comes from their directions.”
Bannings of mass gatherings are popping up around the country as COVID-19 spreads. Washington Governor Jay Inslee banned gatherings and events of 250 people or more in King, Snohomish and Pierce counties on Wednesday, a ban that he expects to extend beyond March. In California, Santa Clara County officials issued a legal order banning mass gatherings of 1,000 or more people for two weeks.
However, Oregon only has 19 confirmed cases while Washington and California have recorded 267 and 157 confirmed cases respectively. There has been one confirmed case in Multnomah County and there have been no bans on mass gatherings in Oregon.
The question of how to handle sporting events goes hand-in-hand with banning mass gatherings. The Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference announced Tuesday morning that the CIAC would cancel remaining state tournament games. In Washington, however, basketball state championship games in towns such as Yakima, Tacoma and Spokane were played as scheduled.
Several sports beyond the high school level have had to adjust as well. Chicago State canceled road conference games against Seattle University and Utah Valley amid coronavirus concerns while the Ivy League Conference Tournament was canceled due to concerns. The ban in California affects two home games for the Golden State Warriors, which will be closed to fans.
As for hosting future sporting events at UP, Brough said that they will continue to adhere to any NCAA decisions as well as any university decisions. For now, Brough says the process is to follow all guidelines given by the university, Multnomah County and other state officials and deal with any potential scheduling issues as they come.
“We don’t want to put anybody in a dangerous position,” Brough said. “The after the fact stuff, ‘Do you need to make matches up, do you need to reschedule games and stuff,’ you deal with that as it comes and you try to be fluid as much as possible … we just want to make sure everyone’s being put in the best position to be healthy.”
Kyle Garcia is the Sports editor for The Beacon. He can be reached at email@example.com.