As the coronavirus outbreak only gets worse in the United States, more and more events are either being canceled or postponed. At the forefront of the sporting world this month is the NCAA Basketball Tournament. Better known as “March Madness”, the 68-team event is due to kick off next week. On Wednesday afternoon, NCAA President Mark Emmert issued a release on the organization’s Twitter account saying the tournament will be held without fans in attendance.
“The NCAA continues to assess the impact of COVID-19 in consultation with public health officials and our COVID-19 advisory panel. Based on their advice and my discussions wtih 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.”
Emmert continued on that he understood there were going to be fans who are going to be disappointed about the turn of events. He added the decision was based on his current understanding of how the coronavirus outbreak is progressing throughout the United States.
The announcement that the games are going to be played without fans comes on a day when there has been a flurry of athletic events finding ways to carry on despite the spread of coronavirus. Several individual conference tournaments had previously announced they would be playing games in gyms where only players, staff, and immediate family would be in attendance.
Other entities are going to more extreme measures but no college athletic program has gone as far as the Ivy League conference has so far. On Tuesday, the Ivy League announced it was canceling it’s postseason tournament and would send its regular-season champion to the NCAA Tournament.
On Wednesday, it went one step further canceling all spring sports. Not tournaments, or a few games. The conference canceled the entire of its spring slate of sporting events for the remainder of the semester. Chief among those are all the Ivy League teams’ baseball seasons.
While some fans are voicing their displeasure at the idea of not being able to attend an NCAA Tournament game, there are rumors it could have been worse.
CBS Sports HQ host Chris Hassel posted on Twitter that Dennis Dodd made an appearance Wednesday afternoon and said there was real consideration being given to canceling the tournament outright. With the announcement that the games will be played in almost totally empty gyms, it appears, for now, cancellation is off the table. That could change should the pandemic get worse.