Columbia, SC - The University of South Carolina has been granted a waiver by the NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Committee to host the 2019 NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament First & Second Rounds in Charlotte, should the Gamecocks receive a top-16 seed in the tournament, Athletics Director Ray Tanner announced today.

South Carolina plans to host its tournament games at Halton Arena, on the campus of UNC Charlotte. The 9,100-seat arena hosts Charlotte 49er home men's and women's basketball games during the season.

"I am appreciative to the NCAA Women's Basketball Committee for granting this waiver request and for Charlotte Athletics Director Mike Hill and his staff for opening up Halton Arena for our women's basketball program for the opportunity to host NCAA Tournament first and second round games if designated," said Tanner.

The NCAA Women's Basketball Committee issued its first seedings of the season for the 2019 tournament Monday night with South Carolina 13th. The second top-16 reveal by the committee will take place on March 4. The 64-team field will be announced on Selection Monday, March 18, on ESPN at 7 p.m. ET.

Colonial Life Arena is hosting the 2019 NCAA Men's Basketball First & Second Rounds March 22-24 and is unable to host the women's tournament during that time.

Since the announcement of hosting the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament was made in April 2017, USC Athletics Department officials have been working on plans to find an alternate site that fit the physical requirements of hosting as well as providing a first-class experience for student-athletes, coaches, staff and fans.

"Our staff looked at venues across South Carolina that met our capacity needs, and many had hosting date conflicts. Halton Arena is a quality venue and the accommodations for the teams in the area will serve as a great host for the tournament," added Tanner. "Charlotte is important for Gamecock Athletics and this will also be a great opportunity to have the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament in a large market."

Per NCAA Women's Basketball Committee policy, the top 16 seeds in the tournament are afforded the opportunity to host first and second round games in their home venues. If the venue is not available, the policy allows for games to be played in a venue within 30 miles from the participating institution's campus. Should no facility be available within 30 miles, the NCAA Women's Basketball Committee "retains the flexibility to make an exception to this policy when necessary."

"We're excited about the possibility of hosting the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament and assisting our good friends at the University of South Carolina," said Mike Hill, Charlotte Director of Athletics. "When Ray Tanner approached us about this, we didn't hesitate. We believe in the power of the sport, and the positive impact it has on our university and city."

In the four years of hosting NCAA Women's Basketball First & Second Rounds, the average attendance at Colonial Life Arena has been 9,883 for each game and last year's average attendance of 10,561 led all NCAA First & Second Round sites. In the history of the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament, the average attendance for all first and second round games has been 4,574.

"Not only has our women's basketball program led the nation in attendance the last four years, but our NCAA attendance figures from the last four years we have hosted are the best in the tournament," added Tanner. "Halton Arena is less than a two-hour drive from our campus, and I know our fans will travel to Charlotte to support our team."

The Gamecock women's basketball program is not only known for its strong home attendance numbers, but also for how its fans support the team on the road.

"I appreciate the persistence Ray Tanner showed in getting a venue for us to host and the NCAA Women's Basketball Committee for recognizing what the opportunity to host games means to our team, our fans and the growth of our sport," said Women's Basketball Coach Dawn Staley. "Our Gamecock FAMS have shown their loyalty to our program through the postseason every year, and I know they'll continue to do that with us in Charlotte."

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