UPDATE: The NCAA announced Thursday that this year’s March Madness tournaments – and all remaining college athletic championship events – are canceled. “This decision is based on the evolving COVID-19 public health threat, our ability to ensure the events do not contribute to spread of the pandemic, and the impracticality of hosting such events at any time during this academic year given ongoing decisions by other entities,” the NCAA said in a statement. Earlier Thursday, Duke University, a perennial March Madness contender, said their athletes would not participate in any league championships due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The NCAA announced Wednesday that its March Madness basketball tournament — one of the nation’s biggest sporting events — would be played without spectators due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The men’s and women’s tournaments will both begin as scheduled on March 17th. However, the NCAA’s COVID-19 advisory board said in a statement: “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.” NCAA president Mark Emmert then aligned with the advisory board, confirming that this year’s tournaments would be held fan-free.
The NCAA’s decision came soon after Ohio governor Mike DePace barred fans from attending all sporting events in the state Wednesday after a fourth Ohioan contracted the coronavirus; March Madness’ “First Four” play-in games are scheduled to take place in Cleveland.
“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 added.
The men’s tournament features 68 collegiate teams and is played in more than a dozen arenas nationwide before its conclusion with the Final Four on April 4th and 6th in Atlanta; the day between the Final Four games, Taylor Swift is scheduled to headline the free Capital One Jam Fest concert on April 5th in conjunction with the tournament’s conclusion.
Earlier Thursday, the Golden State Warriors announced they would play their Thursday home game against the Brooklyn Nets in an empty Chase Center in San Francisco due to coronavirus concerns in Santa Clara County, California. All events through March 21st in the arena were canceled or postponed.
— NCAA (@NCAA) March 11, 2020