When the NCAA ruled, this fall, that it would prohibit states with legal single-game betting on sports from hosting its post-season events it meant that Trenton, N.J., could no longer host regional-round games of this season's Division I women's basketball tournament.
The MAAC was to be the co-host for those games, but the ruling only meant a quick shift of sites to the Webster Bank Arena at Harbor Yard in Bridgeport, Conn., a facility with a proven success record of hosting past NCAA women's tournament games.
Games in Bridgeport will be co-hosted by the MAAC and Fairfield and will take place on March 30 at noon and 2 p.m. with the regional championship game on April 1 at 7:30 p.m. The winner of the regional will advance to the 2013 women's Final Four in New Orleans that begins on April 7.
"Bridgeport has proven to be a great host for our championship in the past and we are excited to be making a return this March," said Carolayne Henry, chair of the Division I women's basketball committee, in a statement released by the MAAC. "We appreciate both the MAAC and Fairfield stepping forward to host because of this special circumstance, and know our student-athletes and fans will enjoy a first-class experience.
The move is one of six NCAA tournaments (the other five from sports other than basketball) moved from New Jersey because of a new state law there allowing sports wagering on professional and college games. Refunds have been provided to individuals who had already purchased tickets to the women's basketball regionals originally scheduled at the Trenton site.
The NCAA said its policy that prohibits its tournaments from being held in states that does permit legal gambling on pro and college games is in place to ensure the integrity of the game, provide consistency in awarding NCAA championships and to address concerns for student-athlete well-being.
"The move of the regional site to Bridgeport made sense for a number of reasons," said MAAC commissioner Rich Ensor. "Bridgeport and Webster Bank Arena have a long history of hosting NCAA championship events, while maintaining a regional host site on the East coast is good for the championship and for the legion of fans living in the area that will now be able to be part of this unique championship experience.
"The MAAC regularly seeks out opportunities to host NCAA championship events because it allows us to showcase high-level college sports to our fans, and it brings economic benefits to our partner arena, hotels and local communities.
"In this case the Webster Bank Arena staff and hoteliers stepped up at the last minute to work with us as hosts ... it was a great team effort by some very committed individuals on the arena, Fairfield University, hotels and MAAC staffs. Kudos to ll involved in the process as 2,300 all-session tickets sold to date is one of the highest among the 2013 1st and 2nd round and regional sites."
The 2013 Bridgeport Regional will be the fifth NCAA Division I basketball tournament hosted at the Arena at Harbor Yard. The facility also hosted regional round play in 2006 and first- and second-round contests in 2004, 2008 and 2012.