The buzzer-beaters, upsets and all the other shining moments of this year’s NCAA tournaments will be played in mostly empty arenas.
Trying to avoid spreading the new coronavirus that has become a global pandemic, the NCAA decided the men’s and women’s tournament games will be off-limits to the general public.
NCAA President Mark Emmert said Wednesday that he made the decision to conduct both tournaments, which begin next week, with only essential staff and limited family in attendance. The decision comes after the NCAA’s COVID-19 advisory panel of medical experts recommended against playing sporting events open to the general public.
Emmert told The Associated Press that canceling the tournament was considered.
“The decision was based on a combination of the information provided by national and state officials, by the advisory team that we put together of medical experts from across the country, and looking at what was going to be in the best interest of our student-athletes, of course,” Emmert told the AP in an phone interview. “But also the public health implications of all of this. We recognize our tournaments bring people from all around the country together. They’re not just regional events. They’re big national events. It’s a very, very hard decision for all the obvious reasons.”
Emmert said the NCAA wants to move the men’s Final Four on April 4 and 6 from Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium to a smaller arena in the area. The NCAA also will consider using smaller venues for second-week regional sites currently set 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.
All sites for next week’s men’s games will remain the same unless conditions in those areas force relocation, he said.
Plans for refunding tickets purchased in advance were being worked out.
First- and second-round sites for the women’s tournament will become official next week. Those games are usually played at or near the campuses of the highly seeded teams.
The Atlantic Coast Conference, Big Ten and Big 12 announced they would not allow the general public to attend their men’s basketball tournaments for the rest of the week. All started Wednesday with fans in attendance. The Big Ten is playing at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis and when an announcement was made about limiting fan access going forward, fans booed.
Advance Ohio Media contributed to this story.