BOSTON (CBS) — Amid global concern regarding coronavirus, the NCAA has taken a major step in working to limit the potential for the pandemic to spread.
NCAA president Mark Emmert announced on Wednesday that the upcoming Division I basketball tournaments for both men and women will be played with only “essential staff and limited family attendance,” meaning no paying fans will be in attendance for March Madness.
“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,” Emmert said. “This decision is in the best interest of public health, including that of coaches, administrators, fans and, most importantly, our student-athletes.”
The men’s national tournament is set to begin next week, with the “First Four” games being played Tuesday and Wednesday. The first round takes place on Thursday, March 19 and Friday, March 20.
Earlier on Wednesday, the Ivy League announced that all spring athletics had been canceled. That decision came after the Ivy League canceled its conference tournaments for basketball.
In the NBA, the Golden State Warriors announced that their home game against the Nets on Thursday night will be played without fans in attendance.
The NCAA advisory panel issued a statement prior to Emmert’s announcement, recommending “against sporting events open to the public.” Shortly after that statement was released, Emmert made the decision public.
“We recognize the opportunity to compete in an NCAA national championship is an experience of a lifetime for the students and their families,” Emmert said. “Today, we will move forward and conduct championships consistent with the current information and will continue to monitor and make adjustments as needed.”