NCAA president Mark Emmert announced Wednesday that the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments will take place “with only essential staff and limited family attendance.”
Emmert released a statement in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.
“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 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,” Emmert said in a statement.
“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. 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.”
The NCAA also said that its advisory panel on the outbreak recommended against sporting events being open to the public.
“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,” the NCAA said.
“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 our players, employees, and fans.”
The men’s basketball tournament tips off March 17 with the First Four games set to be played in Dayton, Ohio. Other host sites throughout the tournament include: Albany, N.Y., Spokane, Wash., St. Louis, Mo., Tampa, Fla., Greensboro, N.C., Omaha, Neb., Sacramento, Calif., Cleveland, Ohio, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Houston, New York City and Atlanta.
The women’s basketball tournament tips off March 20 at the campus of the school with the highest seed. Other sites include: Dallas, Fort Wayne, Ind., Greenville, S.C., Portland, Ore., and New Orleans.
The World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a pandemic earlier Wednesday. There have been more than 1,100 cases reported in the U.S. and at least 30 deaths from the outbreak.