March Madness will go on as scheduled, but fans will not be able to attend NCAA tournament games as a response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19). Staff members and limited family will still be allowed in games, per The Athletic’s Shams Charania. A decision about media has yet to be determined, per college basketball insider Jeff Goodman.
“The NCAA’s men’s and women’s tournaments will be held without fans — and only essential staff and limited family attendance,” Charania reported on Twitter.
The announcement comes a day after the Ivy League announced that their conference tournament has been canceled. Yale is the regular-season conference champion and will represent the Ivy League in the NCAA tournament. Prior to the announcement, CBS Sports’ Dennis Dood reported that canceling the NCAA tournament was “definitely a possibility.” The most recent NCAA statement indicates that there are currently no plans to cancel games.
“Just now on @CBSSportsHQ our @dennisdoddcbs reports that a major conference official told him a total cancellation the NCAA Tournament is definitely a possibility,” CBS Sports’ Chris Hassel noted on Twitter.
NCAA Tournament Games Will Be Played Without Fans
The decision comes just hours after the COVID-19 was labeled as a pandemic. The NCAA released a statement detailing their decision to play the games without fans as a way to prevent further spread of the virus by gathering thousands of people from all over the country indoors.
The NCAA COVID-19 Advisory Panel recognizes the fluidity of COVID-19 and its impact on hosting events in a public space. COVID-19 is spreading rapidly in the United States, and behavioral risk mitigation strategies are the best option for slowing the spread of this disease. This is especially important because mildly symptomatic individuals can transmit COVID-19. Given these considerations, coupled with a more unfavorable outcome of COVID-19 in older adults – especially those with underlying chronic medical conditions – we recommend against sporting events open to the public. We do believe sport events can take place with only essential personnel and limited family attendance, and this protects the players, employees, and fans.
The SEC announced plans to continue their conference tournament but will be “evaluating plans for the remainder of the tournament.”
“The @SEC is aware of the statement just released by the @NCAA. Tonight’s SEC Men’s Basketball Tournament games will continue as regularly scheduled. We are evaluating plans for the remainder of the tournament. More to come,” the SEC tweeted.
The NCAA has not announced how long the March Madness games will take place without fans, but the statement indicates it will be for the entire tournament.
The NCAA Is Looking to Move the Final Four Into a Smaller Venue
The Final Four has a history of being hosted in large football stadiums and this year’s games looked to be no different as the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta was selected as the 2020 venue. The NCAA is currently looking into moving the Final Four into a smaller venue, per the Associated Press’ Ralph Russo.
“Mark Emmert says the NCAA is looking to move the Final Four out of Mercedes-Benz Stadium into a smaller venue in Atlanta. Regional sites could also be moved from the currently scheduled arenas to smaller venues in same cities. The plan is to keep sites for the 1st round as is,” Russo explained on Twitter.