COVID-19 Coronavirus Fears Will Keep Fans Out Of NCAA Championship Events
KANSAS CITY – As responses to the declared coronavirus pandemic mounted, the momentum reached the NCAA, at times one of the most hidebound and slow-moving bureacracies on the planet. The organization announced this afternoon that fans will not be permitted to attend NCAA Championship events in the near future, including both the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments.
— Inside the NCAA (@InsidetheNCAA) March 11, 2020
“The NCAA continues to assess the impact of COVID-19 in consultation with public health officials and our COVID-19 advisory panel. 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. 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.”
In the statement, Emmert noted that only “essential staff and limited family members” would be allowed to attend the events.
Left unclear is the status of media, and whether or not they will be considered essential.
The announcement, followed hard on the heels of one from the NCAA’s advisory panel on the pandemic. That statement, which came out just minutes before Emmert’s recommended against sporting events open to the public.
Statement from the NCAA COVID-19 Advisory Panel
The NCAA COVID-19 Advisory Panel recognizes the fluidity of COVID-19 and its impact on hosting events in a public space. COVID-19 is spreading rapidly in the United States, and behavioral risk mitigation strategies are the best option for slowing the spread of this disease. This is especially important because mildly symptomatic individuals can transmit COVID-19. Given these considerations, coupled with a more unfavorable outcome of COVID-19 in older adults – especially those with underlying chronic medical conditions – we recommend against sporting events open to the public. We do believe sport events can take place with only essential personnel and limited family attendance, and this protects the players, employees, and fans.
According to Ralph Russo of the Associated Press consideration may be given to moving some games to smaller venues in the same cities.
Mark Emmert says the NCAA is looking to move the Final Four out of Mercedes-Benz Stadium into a smaller venue in Atlanta.
Regional sites could also be moved from the currently scheduled arenas to smaller venues in same cities.
The plan is to keep sites for the 1st round as is.
— Ralph D. Russo (@ralphDrussoAP) March 11, 2020
The status of the Big 12 men’s and women’s basketball championships was still the same as of 4:00 p.m. CT, with no statements on whether fans would be banned. Currently, fans are set to attend Wednesday night’s opening round games at the Sprint Center. That could change quickly, however. There is currently a split on fan attendance at conference tournaments, with the MAC and the Big West banning attendance, but the Big East, SEC and Big Ten confirming that fans can attend — at least for now.
West Virginia is scheduled to host the Big 12 gymnastics championships at the WVU Coliseum on Saturday March 21. The rifle team is scheduled to compete in the Championships in Lexington, Kentucky, this weeked. The status of those events are still under discussion by West Virginia officials. WVU, according to information from a source with knowledge of the situation, controls the decision of whether or not to hold the gymnastics event.