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NCAA Winter Championship Games Set for Empty Arenas

NCAAConcerns over the spread of the coronavirus is causing NCAA winter championship games, including the March Madness men’s basketball tournament, to be played with only essential staff and limited family in attendance.

The move, announced today by NCAA President Mark Emmert, comes after several municipalities have limited the number of people allowed to gather at any given time, resulting in an upcoming Golden State Warriors game set to be played in an empty arena.

The prohibition covers all winter championship events, including the women’s basketball tournament and the men’s hockey Frozen Four. We’re on the cusp of the basketball tourney, with Selection Sunday coming up this weekend. From Emmert’s press release:

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. 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.

Concerns over the spread of the coronavirus is causing all sorts of other cancellations in the sports world. The Ivy League is runnings its post-season championship tourney in empty facilities, while both the Mid-American and Big West conferences held tourneys with limited number of fans onsite.

As of now, however, the major conference championship tourney will be played before fans. The Big Ten will allow fans to the upcoming men’s tournament in Bankers Life Fieldhouse, albeit with some small changes to the media access, per a statement issued today:

The Big Ten Conference’s main priority is to ensure the safety of our students, coaches, administrators, event staff, fans and media as we continue to monitor all relevant information on the COVID-19 virus.
At this time the Big Ten Men’s Basketball Tournament will continue to be held as scheduled. Postgame media availabilities will continue to take place at the Big Ten Men’s Basketball Tournament, however they will be held in larger designated areas of Bankers Life Fieldhouse in lieu of team locker rooms.
We will continue to consult with Pacers Sports & Entertainment, Bankers Life Fieldhouse, the Marion County Public Health Department and the NCAA leading up to and during the event to implement best practices and provide the most current information.

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