Indianapolis, Indiana — The NCAA announced on Wednesday that both the men’s and women’s NCAA basketball tournaments will be played without fans after consulting with its coronavirus advisory panel.
“Based on [the panel’s] advice and my discussions with the NCAA Board of Governors, I have made the decision to conduct our upcoming championship events, including the Division I men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, with only essential staff and limited family attendance,” NCAA president Mark Emmert said in a statement.
The deadly virus was upgraded to a pandemic on Wednesday afternoon, less than a week before the field of 68 was set to tip off with the First Four in Dayton. The East Regional is scheduled for March 27 and 29 at Madison Square Garden.
Coronavirus has been steadily forcing more and more sports leagues and teams to consider alternate plans, with Thursday’s Nets-Warriors game in San Francisco now set to be played without fans, but the banning of fans for the entirety of the men’s and women’s NCAA basketball tournaments is the most significant development to date, and could be the beginning of a trend throughout sports in the United States.
“While I understand how disappointing this is for all fans of our sports, my decision is based on the current understanding of 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. We recognize the opportunity to compete in an NCAA national championship is an experience of a lifetime for the students and their families. Today, we will move forward and conduct championships consistent with the current information and will continue to monitor and make adjustments as needed.”
Source – New York Post