March Madness will be less mad this year.
Hours after the World Health Organization upgraded the COVID-19 outbreak a “pandemic,” the NCAA announced that the men’s and women’s NCAA basketball tournaments will be played without fans.
NCAA President Mark Emmert said that only essential staff and some family members will be permitted to attend games during the tournament.
“Based on [the panel’s] 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,” he 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.
The move comes after the Big East announced it will limit locker room access to student-athletes, coaches and essential team personnel. The Ivy League also canceled its conference tournament, as was the College Basketball Invitational Tournament.
Emmert went on to say, "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.”
Selection Sunday for the men's NCAA Tournament is on Sunday, March 15. The First Four in the men’s tournament kicks off on Tuesday, March 17. The Selection Show for the women’s tournament is set for Monday, March 16, with the first round kicking off on Friday, March 20.
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