SAN ANTONIO – The championship game of the Women’s Basketball NCAA tournament is set for Sunday night at the Alamodome, marking the end of a unique season filled with unprecedented challenges.
Mary Ullman Japhet, with the San Antonio Local Organizing Committee, joined Leading SA Sunday to explain what hosting the tournament has been like.
“Well, it’s like nothing we’ve ever seen before. Of course, I mean, San Antonio is well-versed in hosting men’s and women’s final fours, but this has been something unusual, to say the least,” Japhet said. “I mean… it wasn’t until February that we knew we would be hosting all 64 teams, not just the final four.”
Japhet said that throughout the tournament, local organizers worked to get everything ready while following strict COVID-19 guidelines. She said the tournament has already made an impact on our local economy.
“It’s about a $27.2 million economic impact,” Japhet said. “That’s 35,000 hotel room nights, which is tremendous for our devastated hospitality industry.”
Japhet said the circumstances behind the tournament required unique changes to the event.
“Volunteers were working directly with crowds and student athletes because the student athletes were in a controlled environment, but we changed,” Japhet said. “So, we pivoted to having a virtual team-hosted program. So, we were attending to their needs, as we always would. But it was through a network of people who were running around the community getting what the student athletes needed and delivering it to the front door of a hotel, rather than working directly with the student athletes.”
On top of a global pandemic, organizers also had to deal with unforeseen challenges, like the weight room discrepancy. Japhet said the NCAA took responsibility for the issues and pivoted overnight to offer women the same experience the men have.
“The NCAA owned it and they took full responsibility. And it is an ongoing issue. And it’s not going to be over just because the tournament is over tonight,” Japhet said. “So, they’re reviewing everything. I know that there’s a lot of conversation within the NCAA community, as there should be, but here in San Antonio, we pivoted on a dime.”
Despite the challenges, Japhet called the event a success and said that the event set the Alamo City up for an even brighter future going forward.
“We know how to do these events. And we were the right city to host this and glad to be able to have the opportunity to do so,” Japhet said. “…We’re in a great situation. San Antonio Sports and our local organizing committee, this is what we do.”