Disappointed fans deserve refund for SEC tourney tickets

Nobody could have predicted or imagined the chaos and fear that surrounded last weekend’s Southeastern Conference Tournament, where a tornado swept through Atlanta on Friday night and damaged the Georgia Dome. The severe damage to the dome forced SEC officials to postpone the UK-Georgia game and move the matchup, along with the rest of the tournament games, to Georgia Tech’s Alexander Memorial Coliseum.

Given the unbelievable and potentially tragic circumstances, the SEC officials acted quickly and efficiently in ensuring the rest of the tournament was played before the NCAA Tournament Selection Show on Sunday evening. They should be commended for making the right move in deeming the Georgia Dome unsafe to play despite heavy pressure from fans, players and coaches to go on with the tournament that night.

But the tornado on Friday has given way to further problems: Tens of thousands of fans want refunds, and they want them fast. Because of the move to a much smaller arena — the Alexander Memorial Coliseum seats just over 9,100 — SEC officials did not allow fans to attend the games, as the Kernel reported Monday.

While the tornado presented an unfortunate and difficult situation for SEC officials, they must act swiftly to refund fans’ tickets. The SEC released a statement Sunday saying they are working on a refund process and more information will be available through its Web site (www.SECsports.com), as well as the official sites of the 12 SEC member institutions. The move is obviously a step in the right direction, but the SEC cannot afford to drag its feet on the refund process.

With the college basketball season winding down, tournament officials need to post a simple, accessible refund plan on their Web site within the next week.

Thousands of fans traveled from across the nation only to turn around without ever witnessing a game. Frustrated fans will likely want their money back as soon as possible, and it is the least the SEC could do, given the hotel and travel expenses that can never be made up.

As Paula Wooton, a UK fan that traveled from Burlington, Wash., told the Kernel: “It’s not a good feeling to spend all the money to come down here and not get to go to the ball game.”

And as unfortunate as last weekend’s events were, it showed that the SEC needs to be prepared for events like these. As unlikely as we would like to think natural disasters are, they do happen. Officials for the SEC and other conferences across the nation should put contingency plans in place for future tournaments. Leagues need to make sure they have a backup plan in place that includes an alternate arena, a ticket distribution policy, and alternate game times and scenarios.

Until then, the SEC must do its best to manage the damage the tornado brought on. The first and most important step is to refund the tickets.