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Indiana University is ready to host NCAA tournament games

Go behind the scenes of Hoosiers basketball with the IU Police Department

Mar 15, 2023

Indiana University will host the first and second round of the 2023 NCAA Tournament for women’s basketball at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall on March 16, 18 and 20 due to the Hoosiers’ incredible season. The women’s basketball team is a No. 1 seed in the tournament, a first for the program.

Behind the scenes with IU police

All season, fans have been gathering to cheer on the men’s and women’s basketball teams at IU’s storied venue. For each and every game held at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall, the IU Police Department plans months in advance.

Preparation to host the tournament this week will involve multiple units across IU’s Bloomington campus and locally. We caught up with IUPD for a behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to pull off basketball games safely.

Planning ahead

Sgt. Will Keaton, IUPD special events coordinator, leads the planning process to keep fans safe at IU basketball games.

“It’s a team effort,” he said. “I like working with all the people across the university and the community to plan ahead of the game.”

To pull off a large event with more than 13,000 people, Keaton collaborates with representatives from IU Emergency Management and Continuity, Athletics, University Events, Parking Operations and Facility Operations, as well as county and state law enforcement agencies.

They work months in advance to determine traffic patterns and radio frequencies, weeks out to coordinate staffing needs and days ahead to assign specific duties to individual officers.

Before tip-off

The planning and preparation come together on game day, when it’s all hands — and even paws — on deck.

IUPD K-9s Indy and Cash know their way around Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. Before any fans show up, it’s quiet enough inside to catch the sound of the explosive detection dogs’ feet skittering across the floors as they’re led around by their handlers, Officer Rob Botts and Officer Ryan Skaggs.

Know before you go: Safety guidance for game day

 The K-9s’ noses go under and over seats and poke behind trash cans. Their handlers occasionally call their names, say “here” and point to an area they’d like sniffed a bit more thoroughly.

Sometimes Indy and Cash scurry up to staff who are pushing carts full of cleaning supplies to give them a quick greeting, tongue hanging out, tails wagging, then it’s back to work.

They do the same thing outside, noses twitching around the wheels and undercarriages of media trucks. They are seeking the smell of a certain mix of chemicals detectable by their noses, even if it’s coming from inside a vehicle.

While the dogs are hard at work, Keaton is in the parking lot, writing tickets to mark cars for towing. It’s rare when no cars need towing; most of the time, about 10 cars will be removed from the lot to make way for those attending the game.

Once the lot is emptied, the first vehicles that start filling it up are patrol cars as officers arrive for roll call.

Police officer looks out at the IU Bloomington campus IUPD Sgt. Will Keaton watches traffic near Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. Photo by Chris Meyer, Indiana University

The smell of popcorn fills the air of the Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall lobby, which was mostly empty when the K-9s came through. Now it’s full of people in uniforms — red, gray, blue, brown — all with their agency’s badges on their shoulders or printed with their organization’s title on the front.

Keaton knows each person and where they will be during the game. He talks with them in small groups, sharing their assignments, reminding them of what radio channels to use. Then he stands in front of them all and shares any special instructions they might need ahead of the game.

Once roll call wraps up, law enforcement officers and other officials talk for a while before filtering out to head to their stations.

Game time

As fans start arriving, the traffic picks up on East 17th Street and the Indiana 45 Bypass, and officers are at every gate directing traffic. Keaton makes his way to the top of the tower in Memorial Stadium, where he can see the intersections surrounding Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.

“From here, I can identify where cars are backed up and work with officers on the ground to get traffic flowing,” Keaton said.

As fans arrive at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall, they walk through metal detectors and carry clear bags, security policies that enhance public safety. IU police mingle among the fans, answering their questions or giving directions to those unfamiliar with the venue.

Officer Olivia Meeker sometimes gets questions from fellow IU students and uses the opportunity to tell them about the IU Police Academy, the only program in the U.S. that allows full-time students to earn a college degree while becoming a certified police officer.

Members of IU Emergency Management and Continuity, Athletics, IUPD, Bloomington Police Department, Indiana State Police and University Ev... Members of IU Emergency Management and Continuity, Athletics, IUPD, Bloomington Police Department, Indiana State Police and University Events gather in the command center during IU basketball games. Photo by Chris Meyer, Indiana University

“I think they are surprised to find out that I’m a student, and I’m able to get this great experience while I’m here at IU,” she said.

Officers are also near the court, watching the crowd, and paying attention to who enters and exits. Some of them are assigned to escort players and coaches from both teams on and off the court.

The team effort continues with an IUPD member embedded in “the command center” alongside members of the Indiana State Police, Bloomington Police Department, University Events, EMS, Emergency Management and Continuity, Athletics and others.

Surrounded by five screens with multiple views of Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall, they can monitor the building, hear the latest coming through the radio channel and work together if any issues arise.

Game over

Once the Hoosiers have won (we hope), police officers maintain a presence in the building and outside. IU police are stationed at the gates, and Keaton is watching from the football tower, making sure everyone can exit the parking lot safely and efficiently.

Although most fans are leaving, some officers remain nearby with the coaches and players from the home and visiting teams.

IU police have been coordinating carefully to support fans all season long and ensure they have a great experience during each game. When it’s time for IU to host the NCAA tournament, IUPD will be as ready as they have been well before March Madness began.


IU Newsroom

Mary Keck

Communications Manager, Public Safety

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