Big decisions ahead for Maui’s college basketball tournaments

BYU’s Paisley Johnson drives against Oregon State’s Maddie Washington during a Maui Jim Maui Classic game at Lahaina Civic Center in December 2019. Organizers are planning to hold the women’s college basketball tournament on Maui this December. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER file photo

The 2021 fate of both annual college basketball tournaments usually held on Maui should become clear in the next few days.

The Maui Jim Maui Invitational was held on the Valley Isle from 1984-2019 before being moved to Asheville, N.C., last year due to COVID-19 concerns. The announcement of that move came on Sept. 17, 2020.

This season there has been discussion of having to move the event again due to the recent surge in COVID-19 cases here over the last few months.

The event is currently scheduled for Nov. 22-24 at the Lahaina Civic Center with Texas A&M, Wisconsin, Butler, Houston, Chaminade, Oregon, St. Mary’s and Notre Dame in the field this year.

When asked for a statement on the status of the premier early season men’s college basketball tournament, organizers KemperLesnik responded via email: “Our team will have an updated statement in the next few days. We will absolutely keep you updated.”

On Aug. 27, KemperLesnik delivered a statement to The Maui News that it was working with county, state and host Chaminade University officials and that “at this time, we are planning to host the Tournament at the Lahaina Civic Center.”

Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino said last week that discussions were ongoing on the amount of fans that would be allowed into the 2,400-seat LCC should the tournament be held here.

He said on Sept. 13 that he expected a decision on the event’s status to be made by last Friday.

On Monday, the mayor was more direct.

“I gave them my parameters — and I won’t go into the parameters — and they will make a decision whether they stay or go somewhere else,” Victorino said via phone. “I gave them our parameters and if they cannot meet them, then we have no choice. So, we’re still waiting for their decision.”

Earlier this month, Victorino unveiled the county’s “Safer Outside” initiative, where restaurants and bars will close early, no spectators will be allowed at sporting events and proof of vaccination will be required at restaurants, bars and gyms.

That plan went into effect last Wednesday and will be reevaluated after 30 days — it also includes a provision to allow limited amounts of fans for commercial events like the Maui Invitational and Sentry Tournament of Champions PGA Tour golf tournament.

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported on Sept. 10 that Wisconsin basketball coach Greg Gard is preparing his team to play in the tournament wherever it ends up being held.

“I think the best way to describe it is that they are monitoring it,” Gard told the newspaper, adding that he believes the state of Hawaii will be the ultimate decision-maker and that “I’ve talked to the tournament organizers and there are contingency plans.”

The Maui Jim Maui Classic women’s college basketball tournament hosted by Oregon State University and Vertical Sports Maui was held on Maui in December for four consecutive years before last year when the four-team event was not held due to COVID-19 concerns.

“We would love to have the tournament, we’re working really hard right now to try and put something together, obviously working within the guidelines that we’re given,” VSM executive director Josh Duinker said via phone on Monday. “Right now we’re kind of planning on doing a tournament without fans, since, you know, we’re not allowed any fans in attendance.

“So, that’s what we’re planning for and we do hope we can get fans obviously if we’re allowed to come December.”

The Pac-12 Conference has released its schedule of conference games, but the Beavers’ full slate has not yet been posted on the school’s athletic website.

Duinker said he could not reveal the format of the 2021 Maui Classic tournament at Lahaina Civic Center “right now. We’re just trying to roll out that information and lock in a few details still to be determined.”

Duinker said sunglasses company Maui Jim has agreed to return as the title sponsor, a key for the event’s survival.

Duinker said the event is aiming to be played this year in mid-December.

“We definitely want to do everything we can to have a tournament, whatever that looks like,” he said. “We have a great relationship with Oregon State women’s basketball and we want to continue to help them any way we can to have a tournament on Maui.”

* Robert Collias is at rcollias@mauinews.com.


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