SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Last year’s Summit League Tournament ended just before the COVID-19 pandemic changed the sports world forever. Nearly one year later, it’s now altered how this year’s Summit League Tournament will look and feel.
Sixteen Men’s and Women’s college basketball teams, and their fans make their way to Sioux Falls every March for the Summit League Tournament.
“Basically Macomb to Denver, down to Tulsa, up to Grand Forks. So they’re really coming in from all over the place. That was I think the chief concern about bringing all those different fan bases into one location,” USD Athletic Director Herbster said.
Gone will be the loud roars of the crowd, and the buzz of a packed house.
“When our fight song is being played, and our fans stand up and clap along, the hair goes up on the back of your neck,” SDSU Athletic Director Justin Sell said.
The Summit League Tournament has turned into one of the area’s largest sporting spectacles.
“Having those student-athletes be able to play in such large crowds, it really does, it’s a celebration. It’s a March Madness type of event,” USD Athletic Director David Herbster said.
Basketball will still be played.
“All teams want to compete, and want to be successful and play really hard. And so, the athletes are going to do what they’re doing right now and coaches will. But it does, it changes the atmosphere,” USD Women’s Basketball Coach Dawn Plitzuweit said.
Teams will be used to playing in empty arenas by the time March comes around.
“Even when we have fans at home this year, they’re so much farther away, and there are fewer of them, and they have masks on, so you really can’t hear them anyway,” Plitzuweit said.
And at the end of the day, the goal of the tournament will remain the same.
“We’ll turn it into a positive and a chance to get those games in, and go to the NCAA Tournament and that’s still in front of us,” Sell said.
Last year’s combined attendance total between the Men’s and Women’s tournaments was just shy of 50,000, and the Women’s tournament led the country in average attendance per session.