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UConn takes precautions to prevent a repeat of the vandalism that followed the 2023 title game

STORRS, Conn. (AP) — Precautions were in place Monday at the University of Connecticut designed to prevent a repeat of the violence and vandalism that marred the celebrations of the school's 2023 NCAA men's basketball championship.

In advance of the Final Four, the school removed the aluminum light posts along Hillside Road, the main thoroughfare through the center of campus, and replaced them with temporary, recessed lighting.

The school also has limited the size of the campus watch party planned for Monday's title game against Purdue. Only 6,700 students, all of whom won tickets to the event through a lottery, will be allowed inside Gampel Pavilion for the event, and they all will be seated in the upper bowl of the 10,000-seat arena.

Unlike last year, the general public will not be allowed into the arena and no alcohol will be sold during the event, school spokesman Mike Enright said.

A total of 39 people were arrested after celebrants broke windows, overturned vehicles and even used a light post to ram a door at the student union following the Huskies' win over San Diego State last April.

Many of those involved in the rioting also faced discipline from the school, which ended up expelling six students, including more than one in their final semester before they would have graduated, Enright said.

Sixteen people were injured, none of them seriously, Enright said.

“We felt that the large number of people at Gampel last year might have contributed to the actions that followed on campus,” he said. “We're trying to spread the celebrations out a little bit.”

University, state and local police have also been coordinating to make sure there is “an increased safety presence," Enright said. He also noted that there are numerous video cameras on campus to help police identify any problems and those responsible for them.

Enright said similar precautions were taken for watch parties during both the men's and women's Final Four games on Friday and Saturday night and no major problems were reported on campus either night.

“Overall, the students are very well behaved,” Enright said. “And Saturday night they were exceptional during the semifinal against Alabama and on Friday for the women's game as well.”

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AP March Madness bracket: https://apnews.com/hub/ncaa-mens-bracket and coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/march-madness