SAN DIEGO – The arena for the first-round NCAA men's tournament game between Alabama and Marquette was temporarily evacuated Thursday after bomb-sniffing dogs found a suspicious package about two hours before tipoff.
The dogs detected the package inside a 4-by-6-inch condiment container in a vendor cart outside Cox Arena at San Diego State University. A bomb robot was sent to the scene, FBI spokeswoman Jan Caldwell said.
An all-clear was given about two hours later and fans were allowed in once security staff took their posts inside the arena, university spokesman Jack Beresford said.
The game was rescheduled to start at 12:50 p.m. — 70 minutes later than the original tip time. Marquette players were the first to take the floor for warmups.
"We will continue to remain vigilant in our security planning throughout our tournament, and the safety and security of our student-athletes, teams and fans is paramount," the NCAA said in a statement.
Fans and officials were initially told to gather behind a parking structure across the street.
"No bomb has been found," said Jason Foster, another SDSU spokesman. "I'm not sure how you would describe what was found. I'm not qualified to call it a false alarm. After [authorities] looked at it, they determined it was safe to go inside the building."
The FBI warned last week of a recent Internet posting discussing terrorists attacks aimed at college basketball arenas and other sports stadiums, but also said there were no specific or credible threats.
Authorities were alerted at 9:18 a.m., before the scheduled 10 a.m. opening of the arena, and evacuated a "handful" of vendors who were inside, said Maurice Luque, a spokesman for the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department.
"It was some type of package that was described as looking like a small briefcase or a box," Luque said.
The bomb-sniffing dogs belonged to a private security company hired by the NCAA, said detective Gary Hassen, a spokesman for the San Diego Police Department.
Hundreds of Alabama and Marquette fans milled around in parking lots waiting for information. Some were not aware a suspicious package was found.