EL PASO, TEXAS (KTSM) – The 2020 WestStar Don Haskins Sun Bowl Invitational basketball tournament has been canceled in 2020, the Sun Bowl Association announced on Monday.
The SBA Basketball Committee, led by Tournament Director Barry Kobren, and SBA Executive Director Bernie Olivas, elected to cancel the long-standing tournament because of the threat of COVID-19 in El Paso.
The 2020 Invitational was scheduled to be held on Dec. 21-22 with UTEP hoping to defend its title from 2019.
“The Sun Bowl [Association] was prepared to host one of its strongest fields featuring three defending conference champions,” Kobren said. “Given the difficulties we are all experiencing, it became apparent that these three schools would not be able to participate next month, so we are looking forward to an even better event next year, that we can all attend.”
It is only the second time the annual Holiday Tournament will not be played since it was first held in 1961. Sun Bowl officials say the teams that were scheduled to come to El Paso for the tournament backed out due to the COVID-19 situation in El Paso.
“It’s pretty much what’s happening with UTEP football, the teams didn’t want to come into El Paso with the situation we have here,” Olivas said. “The final team pulled out and it’s too late to find anyone with the basketball season starting in a week and a half on the 25th. So we just decided to cancel it for this year.”
In 2009, the tournament was renamed to honor former UTEP head coach and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer Don Haskins. “The Bear” coached at UTEP from 1961 to 1999, winning 719 games and making 14 postseason appearances.
“It is unfortunate that a 59-year-old tradition has to be canceled due to the issues the Covid-19 virus has presented,”said Olivas. “I would like to assure everybody that this is a one-year cancellation, and we will be back in 2021 with a strong and stellar field. I would like to thank WestStar and UTEP for their understanding in the decision to cancel the tournament in 2020.”
The field for the 2020 tournament had not yet been announced prior to it being canceled.