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Erwin Center to host games as NCAA moves women's basketball tournament to San Antonio, region

Eddie Timanus
USA TODAY
The NCAA announced Friday that the Erwin Center will be one of five sites for early round games of the NCAA women’s basketball tournament. The rest of the tournament will take place at Texas State's Strahan Arena and three facilities in San Antonio.

The NCAA on Friday made it official that San Antonio, Austin and San Marcos would serve as hosts for the entire 64-team women’s basketball tournament. San Antonio was long considered the front-runner with plans already in place to host the Final Four at the Alamodome. Early round matchups will be played at the Erwin Center and Texas State's Strahan Arena as well.

This is similar to the approach the organization has put in place for this year’s men’s tournament, which will be held entirely in Indianapolis and nearby venues to minimize travel amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

There will be five sites for the first round

Besides the Erwin Center and Strahan Arena, first-round games March 21-22 will take place in San Antonio, using two courts at the Alamodome as well as the University of Texas San Antonio Convocation Center and Bill Greehey Arena on the campus of St. Mary’s. 

Texas coach Vic Schaefer welcomed the idea of having the tournament in one central location.

"Right now, there's only one way to do this, and if you're going to do it, then do it right, and that's trying to keep everybody in a bubble, in a secluded area," Schaefer said. "Obviously, it's not going to be all at one venue, but keeping them secluded in limited access areas at a certain hotel. It's the only safe way to do it. ... Hey, it's good for us. It's close."

Schaefer said he'd support at least allowing family members into the venues to watch games.

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The tournament will be completed entirely at the San Antonio venues from the second round onward beginning March 23, and all games from the round of 16 through the April 4 final will take place at the Alamodome.

“We appreciate the historical significance of moving the entire championship to one region and want to acknowledge the work by the Women’s Basketball Committee and staff, our hosts, local organizers and ESPN that has allowed us to make plans for a successful 2021 championship,” said Lynn Holzman, NCAA vice president of women’s basketball.

“We’re fortunate to be working with San Antonio, which features one of the most experienced local organizing committees in the country, and our No. 1 priority is to focus on creating and implementing safety controls in an environment for student-athletes, coaches, administrators, officials and everyone else associated with the championship.”

The NCAA has not made a decision on whether fans will be allowed to attend. 

In a statement, the organization said it will use Diamond Health as the testing provider and will work closely with the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District. Teams will stay in hotels in San Antonio and the surrounding Bexar County area.

“San Antonio was already poised to successfully host the NCAA Women’s Final Four this year, but to bring all 64 teams in this prestigious championship tournament to our city is a remarkable opportunity for our event and hospitality industry,” San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg said. “I can assure the NCAA and the teams we will deliver the best, safest and most memorable experience possible.”

The women's bracket will be announced March 15.

American-Statesman staff writer Danny Davis contributed to this report.