Pac-12 moves gymnastics championship from Arizona State

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By Lindsay Robinson By Lindsay Robinson

Arizona State can host the first two rounds of the NCAA women's basketball tournament after all.

A day after the NCAA announced that the Sun Devils were currently one of the top 20 teams, the Pac-12 moved its gymnastics championship to the University of Utah from Arizona State. The gymnastics dates conflicted with the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament.

Since the NCAA mandated that games be played on campus, the Sun Devils weren't able to host. Now Arizona State has a chance to play its first two NCAA games at home.

The wheels started going into motion after the Sun Devils beat Stanford on Friday to complete a season sweep of the Cardinal.

"Very frankly on Saturday after we prevailed against Stanford," Arizona State athletic director Ray Anderson said of when he started trying to get gymnastics moved. "The 21 wins is an unprecedented pace and if we keep working hard and doing what we're doing, our women will have an opportunity to qualify."

Anderson approached the Pac-12 office to see if they could switch the gymnastics tournament somewhere else. The conference obliged, moving it to Utah.

"Fortunately with enough time we were able to gather our argument, make our presentation to the Pac-12 on why it was important," Anderson said. "We took the risk that our women will continue to play well and will be able to qualify as a host.

"Our gymnastics coach was very understanding that this was a very special situation. She would have loved to seen the gymnastic championship stay in Tempe, but it was for the better good overall of the programs so she was on board."

The Pac-12 didn't take the move lightly.

"This is an extraordinary situation given the importance of NCAA championships to all our member institutions," Pac-12 vice president of public affairs Erik Hardenbergh said.

"At this point of the season, University of Utah was the logical choice given its capabilities to host an event of this magnitude. In consultation with our universities and after discussions with the NCAA, we put the venue change to a vote this week and membership approved it."

This now leaves Louisville as the only one of the top 20 which can't host the first two rounds. The Cardinals' home site is being used for the men's NCAA basketball tournament.

"We still have some basketball left to play, but that's incredible," Arizona State coach Charli Turner Thorne after hearing of the move. "You can't be a top program unless you have administrative support and we have it."

The Sun Devils (21-3, 10-2 Pac-12) have a key game Friday night at Oregon State, which leads the conference.

Five Pac-12 teams were in the initial list announced by the NCAA on Wednesday. California, Stanford, Oregon State and Washington joined the Sun Devils.

"This just goes to show how strong our conference is," Turner Thorne said. "I think it's well-deserved, I really do. I think I'm pretty objective seeing the global perspective if you will. Even this summer so many people came up to me and said man you're conference is going to be good this year."