UPDATE (March 12, 2020): The NCAA has fully cancelled its March Madness Division 1 Basketball Tournament. Following on the heels of yesterday’s announcement that the tournaments would take place with “only essential staff and limited family attendance,” this new mandate is part of a complete cancellation of all remaining spring and winter collegiate sport championships.
“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,” said the NCAA in a statement.
15 men’s basketball conference tournaments were cancelled earlier today as well, with powerhouse schools like Duke and Kansas pulling completely out of athletic competition due to safety concerns. This announcement from the NCAA follows on the heels of the NBA, MLB and NHL suspending all games.
Breaking: The NCAA has announced that the Division I men’s and women’s 2020 basketball tournaments have been canceled because of the coronavirus and its evolving threat to public health. pic.twitter.com/vRYThsP6yz
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) March 12, 2020
ORIGINAL STORY (March 11, 2020): As the spread of the COVID-19 coronavius continues to rattle the globe, the NCAA has announced that this year’s men’s and women’s March Madness basketball tournaments will be closed to the public. The announcement was made by NCAA president Mark Emmert, who said the games will take place with “only essential staff and limited family attendance.”
“The NCAA continues to assess the impact of COVID-19 in consultation with public health officials and our COVID-19 advisory panel” said Emmert’s statement. “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 then acknowledged the disappointment felt by fans worldwide, going on to say “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 sealing off of the 68-team NCAA basketball tournament — the first such occurrence in its 81-year history — is the latest in a long string of events to be postponed, cancelled or limited due to the virus’s rapid spread. In the last week alone, SXSW was cancelled, Coachella was postponed for six months, and the Golden State Warriors announced that their home games would be played in an empty stadium due to an order from San Francisco Mayor London Breed banning public gatherings of 1,000 or more people.
It’s possible that the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo could follow suit as well. Spectators have already been banned from the torch lighting ceremony, and the Games’ viability has come into question as well, with the tremendous amount of international travel that would be necessary.
— NCAA (@NCAA) March 11, 2020