Two women’s college basketball tournaments in Puerto Rico have been moved because of concerns about the Zika outbreak.
The San Juan Shootout held during Thanksgiving weekend will be played in Daytona, Florida. The Puerto Rico Classic will move to Las Vegas on Dec. 19-21.
“This is not an easy decision for us in light of our decades of relationships with our Puerto Rican partners,” Sport Tours president Lee Frederick, whose company runs the events, said in a statement. “However, we understand it is what the universities want at this time. The strength of our relationships in Daytona Beach and Las Vegas has allowed us to make the changes smoothly. We look forward to returning to San Juan in 2017 and beyond.”
The San Juan Shootout participants are Penn State, Georgetown, American, Clemson, Georgia State, Loyola Chicago, Troy, VCU, Villanova and Wright State. The Las Vegas field includes Cal, Oklahoma, Xavier, Arkansas State, Kennesaw State, Northern Kentucky, Portland State and Southern Mississippi.
“Multi-team events on islands are good competitions and good experiences for our team, but any risk above and beyond the risk of playing basketball isn’t responsible of us,” Cal coach Lindsay Gottlieb said. “While everyone wants to be in Puerto Rico, the main thing is the health and safety of our student athletes.”
Gottlieb commended Sports Tours for moving the tournament to Las Vegas on short notice. Cal played in Las Vegas last year during Thanksgiving.
“Our kids are resilient,” Gottlieb said. “We had conversations with parents as we didn’t want them to lose money. Our players like Vegas. We’ll go to a show and have as fun an experience as possible. We get three games close to home where friends and family can come.”
Cal will face Oklahoma in Las Vegas. The Oklahoma men’s team was supposed to be in Puerto Rico also at the Puerto Rico Tip-Off tournament, which is run by ESPN. That was moved last month to Disney World in Orlando.
“The safety of our student-athletes, staff and fans are a top priority,” Oklahoma women’s basketball coach Sherri Coale said. “While we’re disappointed in not being able to travel to Puerto Rico, we believe Las Vegas will be a great host for this tournament.”
A three-team Division III women’s basketball tournament from Dec. 28-30 is still on in Puerto Rico.
Frederick wrote in an email to The Associated Press that the Division III schools “are braver” and “not controlled by ESPN.”
The mosquito-spread virus can cause severe brain-related birth defects, including smaller heads. As of last month, there have been more than 20,000 cases reported in Puerto Rico.
“I’m well read up on Zika now,” Gottlieb said. “This is not Rio. It’s not the Olympics, where you can’t move a whole Olympics. I think it’s in the best interest of everyone.”
In May, the Marlins shifted their baseball games from the island to Miami because of concerns about Zika.
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