Hawaii basketball: Big West bars spectators for tournament because of coronavirus threat

The Honda Center will welcome no spectators for this week's Big West tournament. / 2018 photo by Brian McInnis

The following is posted on the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s breaking news.

The Big West Conference is not allowing any “non-essential” people — a list that includes fans, bands and cheerleaders — to attend the league’s men’s and women’s basketball tournaments this week.

The mandate is in response to fears over COVID-19. The Big West notified the participating teams this afternoon that only players, coaches, referees, “essential” personnel and media will be allowed to attend the games.

The Rainbow Warriors are set to play in UC Davis in Thursday’s opening round of the men’s tournament in the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif. The ‘Bows have been in California the past week after ending their regular season with road games in Davis and Cal State Northridge.

The Rainbow Wahine are scheduled to play their first tournament game Wednesday at the Walter Pyramid in Long Beach.

UH had been scheduled to bring its band and cheerleaders to both tournaments.


Rainbow Wahine coach Laura Beeman spoke to Hawaii Warrior World over the phone ahead of scouting the first-round game between Long Beach State and Cal Poly at the Walter Pyramid on Tuesday.

“It’s unfortunate for the kids. For some of these kids, it’s their first time getting to the conference tournament,” Beeman said. “To not have their friends and family be able to watch, you can’t take that disappointment away from them. I completely understand it. We have to bounce back and we have play for the reasons we’ve played for all year long, which are each other. I think this group of young ladies will do that. But they’re definitely disappointed, and I don’t blame them.”

She said she thought UH — which draws well among transplants, extended friends and family in Southern California — might’ve had close to 500 or 600 people in the stands for Wednesday’s second-round game.


UH athletic director David Matlin offered a statement: “I’m sure it was a difficult decision for the Big West Conference, as it was for both the Ivy League and MAC, which have also taken measures with COVID-19. I particularly feel for our dedicated fans who have sacrificed their time and resources to make their way to Anaheim to support our men’s and women’s basketball programs. Regardless, this will not hinder our teams from representing the state of Hawaii with a championship mindset.”

As did UH men’s coach Eran Ganot: “Obviously, it’s disappointing that we won’t be able to play in front of our tremendous fans, our band, cheerleaders and dancers who always travel so well in support of us. Right now, we are only concerned with what we can control. Despite the unique situation, our focus will continue to be on preparing for the tournament and putting forward the best performance we can.”


Here is the full release from the Big West:

IRVINE, CA – The Big West Conference today announced that this week’s men’s and women’s basketball tournament will be played without spectators as a precaution for preventing the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

The tournament begins with women’s early round games tonight and Wednesday at the Walter Pyramid on the campus of Long Beach State University.

The men’s quarterfinal games will be played Thursday at Honda Center followed by the men’s and women’s semifinals on Friday. Both championship games will be played at Honda Center on Saturday, March 14. Fans will not be allowed into either venue.

“The Big West Board of Directors, comprised of the chief executive officers of the nine member universities, strongly feel that this is a prudent way to help slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus while being sensitive to our student-athletes who have pointed towards playing in the tournament all season,” said Big West Commissioner Dennis Farrell. “Many of our institutions are developing plans to minimize the interaction of individuals on their campuses that could include the downsizing of events.

“I want to thank the management teams of the Walter Pyramid and Honda Center for their understanding and assistance as the Big West worked through this extremely difficult decision.”

“I’m sorry for the inconvenience this will cause our fans, but I do want to stress that all games will be televised on the ESPN family of networks,” said Farrell.

Those who have purchased tickets for the event may receive a full refund from their respective points of purchase.

Members of the NCAA Division I Big West Conference are Cal Poly, Cal State Fullerton, CSUN, Long Beach State, UC Davis, UC Irvine, UC Riverside, UC Santa Barbara, and Hawaii.


An addendum from the Big West on who is allowed to attend:

>> Submitted Bench List (25 maximum)
>> Essential Game Management Personnel at Walter Pyramid and Honda Center
>> Credentialed Media approved through the credential system
>> Non-competing Student-Athletes on team roster, but not on the bench list
>> Coaches and student-athletes of teams for scouting purposes
>> ESPN and ESPN3 Crews
>> Temporary Access Credentials—12 per institution for institutional employees or students only. Four additional temporary access credentials per team will be provided for use by institutional employees/students only. THESE FOUR MUST BE DESIGNATED BY AN ADMINISTRATOR.
>> Members of men’s teams still alive in the tournament may attend their institution’s women’s games and vice versa.