Today, the NCAA announced that the Division 1 men’s and women’s championship basketball tournaments will be held as scheduled. Attendance, though, will be closed to the general public.
The decision represents an attempt to slow the potential spread of the novel coronavirus. And it applies to other NCAA events, including the wrestling championships, that will take place in the next two months. NCAA President Mark Emmert made the announcement after consulting with a team of public health officials.
“While I understand how disappointing this is for all fans of our sports, my decision is based on how COVID-19 is progressing in the United States,” Emmert said. “This decision is in the best interest of public health, including that of coaches, administrators, fans and, most importantly, our student-athletes.“
What this means for March Madness
Attendance at the games, which begin next week, will be limited to family and essential staff. CBS Sports and Turner Sports released a joint statement in support of the NCAA’s decision. They noted that they will still fully produce and cover the games.
The complete tournament field will be announced this Sunday for the men’s side, and Monday for the women’s. Games will be held in cities across the country for both tournaments. The men’s Final Four is currently scheduled to be held at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, and the women’s at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans. Although it’s been reported that Emmert and the NCAA might be looking to move the men’s Final Four to a smaller stadium in the area.
The decision to close off attendance during March Madness follows the Ivy League’s decision to entirely cancel conference tournaments amid the coronavirus outbreak. The Mid-America and Big West Conferences held their tournaments but closed off games to the public.
The World Health Organization has officially declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic. There are now more than 1,000 reported cases of the virus in the United States. A total of 120,000 cases have been reported around the world.