Not a soul stood inside McKale Center at the scheduled 4:35 p.m. tip-off time for the Arizona Wildcats' game with Stanford on Saturday.
That's just the way it should have been, the way athletic director Greg Byrne described it Saturday when announcing a postponement of the game to today at 12:30 p.m.
"We knew it was the right thing to do," Byrne said. "Dr. (UA president Robert) Shelton and I talked several times immediately after the tragedy took place and we knew this was the right direction to go."
The shootings involving U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords also were foremost on the mind of UA coach Sean Miller, who released a statement read by Byrne. (Miller and UA players were unavailable for comment.)
"Basketball should be the last thing on anyone's mind right now," Miller said in the statement. "Our thoughts are with the families and people of this community touched by this tragedy. As a husband, father and member of this community, today's events have affected me deeply."
Secondarily, the game also was affected by security concerns. About 10 to 12 UA police officers routinely work home basketball games, and many of them were tied up at University Medical Center, where Giffords underwent surgery, according to UA police Sgt. Juan Alvarez.
"And because it was a fluid situation, we weren't sure if we were going to be needed to do something else," Alvarez said.
It was the first postponement of a UA basketball game since 1995-96, when the Wildcats decided not to make a trip to Philadelphia to play St. Joseph's because of poor weather (a contention St. Joseph's disagreed with at the time). Arizona did not even have to postpone a football game after Sept. 11, 2001.
The postponement provided a little work for the private security force the UA hires for games. Two guards at one of the front entrances turned away roughly 250 fans who had not heard about the postponement, according to Steve Pollitti of A-Team Security.
Many of them had driven from cities outside of Tucson, such as Phoenix or Prescott, he said.
"Some people didn't even know there was a shooting," Pollitti said. "Others were like, 'OK.' There was nobody who was disappointed or upset. Most of them said it was no problem, and they were season-ticket holders."
While Pollitti said most of the turned-away fans showed up about a half-hour before the scheduled tip-off, season-ticket holder Mike Morales of Phoenix pulled up to McKale Center at 4:45 expecting there might still be a game.
"I'm surprised they still didn't play," Morales said. "But it is what it is. I can understand."
So did Stanford AD Bob Bowlsby and coach Johnny Dawkins, according to Byrne. Efforts to reach Dawkins through a team spokesman were unsuccessful, but Byrne said the Cardinal deferred to whatever the UA decided to do.
"They basically put it in our hands," Byrne said. "They were great about that."
Byrne said he talked to Miller, while the UA basketball staff spoke with its Stanford counterparts until a decision was made.
Ryan Reynolds, UA basketball operations director, said both teams prepared as if the game were going to take place Saturday, until they were told at 2 p.m. that it had been moved to today.
Stanford and Arizona then scheduled workouts for later Saturday, since neither would have time for a shootaround this morning, with the Wildcats working out quietly inside the Richard Jefferson Gymnasium. The Cardinal was not going to make it back home Saturday, anyway, and instead will take a flight tonight from Phoenix to San Jose, Calif.
The rescheduled game will be televised live by KWBA (Channel 58) and Fox Sports Arizona, while KGUN (Channel 9) has scheduled a replay at 10:30 p.m.
KWBA and Fox Sports Arizona were originally scheduled to carry the game Saturday at 4:30 p.m.
"We know that sports often bring people together," Byrne said.
"We look forward to providing the opportunity (today) to get everybody together and focus on the great community that we have."
On StarNet: See an interactive preview of the Arizona-Stanford game at azstarnet.com/multimedia
• What: Stanford at Arizona
• When: 12:30 p.m.
• TV: FSAZ, Channel 58
• Radio: 1290-AM, 107.5-FM, 990-AM (Spanish)