SIOUX FALLS – The Summit League announced Thursday that it will hold its annual conference basketball tournament without fans and move it to the Sanford Pentagon, rather than being played at the Denny Sanford Premier Center in Sioux Falls.
The men's and women's tournaments will be played on the original dates March 6-9.
“As the Summit League’s Commissioner, I never imagined that the League would be making an announcement like this one," conference commissioner Tom Douple said in the annoucement. "It is with deep disappointment, yet an equally deep amount of conviction that we came to this conclusion because the health, safety, and welfare of our student-athletes, coaches, administrators, fans, and the Sioux Falls community remain our highest priorities. This decision was not made lightly, knowing that fan attendance has been a key driving force in raising interest in the Summit League Basketball Championships. However, after a review of the current environment and the potential impact of bringing 16 teams and all their constituents into one site, it became a necessary decision.”
The conference said the move to the smaller, basketball-centric Sanford Pentagon would allow the entire tournament, including practices, to occur under one roof. It cited the Sanford Health-owned building's ability to host college basketball events earlier this year as a strength in being able to host the tournament. The Pentagon hosted the Crossover Classic in late November, which was adapted from an event originally scheduled to take place in the Bahamas, and also hosted the Dakota Showcase, a non-conference event in December that involved all four Division I men's basketball programs from the Dakotas over a three-day span.
This will be the 13th consecutive year the Summit League Basketball Tournaments will be held in Sioux Falls. The first six of those were at the Sioux Falls Arena and the last six were held at the Premier Center where the games will return next season. Ironically, the 2020 tournaments were one of the last major sporting events in South Dakota to be held with fans prior to the pandemic shutting down sports in mid-March.
“The pandemic has made all of us pivot and make difficult decisions. This is yet another one and it was especially hard because of what this event means to this community and the unparalleled success the tournaments have had in previous years at the Premier Center,” said Thomas Lee, executive director of the Sioux Falls Sports Authority. “I know both the Sioux Falls Sports Authority and The Summit League look forward to bringing the games back there in 2022.”
Douple also commended the efforts going into the conference's testing protocols and safety measures being utilized to make the regular season possible, which will continue in the postseason. The NCAA has already announced they will go to a "bubble" format for the Division I tournaments.
“In a multi-team event like our championships, one positive test along with contact tracing requirements has the potential to eliminate several teams from moving forward and mitigating those risks was paramount in the decision-making process,” Douple added.
All ticket holders will receive detailed information via email from the Denny Sanford Premier Center on Monday, Jan. 18 about their options going forward. The conference said the entire tournament will continue to be televised through Midco Sports Net and ESPN.