NCAA March Madness to be played without fans in attendance
The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) announced Wednesday that their March Madness tournament will go ahead as scheduled but will be closed off to fans.
Only essential family members and staff will be able to attend, said the NCAA hours after the World Health Organization announced the virus as a pandemic.
“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,” said NCAA president Mark Emmert in a news release.
“This decision is in the best interest of public health, including that of coaches, administrators, fans and, most importantly, our student-athletes.”
The protocol for what constitutes essential staff, close family members and medical screening for people entering the arena are still being worked out.
With the tournament less than one week away, the NCAA is also considering other methods to decrease the chances of spreading the virus.
The NCAA is looking into moving the men’s Final Four from Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium to a smaller arena.
They will also consider using smaller venues for the men’s regional games currently scheduled to be played at the Toyota Center in Houston; Madison Square Garden in New York; Staples Center in Los Angeles; and Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
The National College Players Association (NCPA) asked the NCAA to take every precaution possible to ensure the safety of the players.
“Precautions should include canceling all auxiliary events that put players in contact with crowds such as meet and greets and press events,” said the NCPA in a statement last month.
CBS and Turner will be the main broadcasters of the tournament.
The amount of other media partners that will be allowed in attendance is still being determined.
The NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament is a single-elimination tournament of 68 teams that compete in seven rounds for the national championship.
The favorites to win this year are the Kansas Jayhawks who currently have a 28-3 record going into the tournament.
However, previous years have shown overall records mean nothing as upsets are one of the major stories of March Madness.