2020 NCAA Basketball Tournaments Closed to Fans Because of Coronavirus

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistMarch 11, 2020

A closeup view of an official game ball with the March Madness logo during a second-round men's college basketball game between Villanova and Wisconsin in the NCAA Tournament, Saturday, March 18, 2017, in Buffalo, N.Y. (AP Photo/Bill Wippert)
Bill Wippert/Associated Press

NCAA president Mark Emmert announced Wednesday the NCAA men's and women's basketball tournaments will be closed to fans out of concern over the coronavirus:

Inside the NCAA @InsidetheNCAA

NCAA President Mark Emmert statement on limiting attendance at NCAA events: https://t.co/GrPbmZx5N6 https://t.co/PFFh9htixR

Only essential staff and limited family will be allowed to attend. For fans who have already purchased tickets, the NCAA announced refunds will be given:

NCAA Final Four @FinalFour

Updated ticket information for NCAA Championship events closed to public. MORE INFO: https://t.co/ZgplwB7n0M https://t.co/YchfbqknyV

Emmert also announced changes could be made to venues after the first two rounds: 

Ralph D. Russo @ralphDrussoAP

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.

The NIT will also be played without fans, per Andy Katz of Turner Sports.

As of Wednesday, there have been 1,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 within the United States leading to 31 deaths, per CNN.com.

The decision comes after the NCAA advisory panel announced it has recommended against keeping sporting events open to the public as a precaution to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

"We do believe sport events can take place with only essential personnel and limited family attendance, and this protects our players, employees, and fans," the panel's statement added.

The advisory panel was established earlier this month and consists of NCAA Chief Medical Officer Dr. Brian Hainline as well as several other doctors and athlete liaisons.

The decision to keep fans from the arenas follows the steps taken by authorities worldwide to attempt to limit the spread of COVID-19. Several events have also been postponed or canceled around the world.

In college basketball, the MAC and Big West prohibited spectators from attending their conference tournaments, while the Ivy League canceled both its men's and women's tournaments.

On Wednesday, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said he will issue an order on large gatherings that includes banning fans from attending NCAA tournament games within the state, according to Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post

This would have included both the First Four in Dayton as well as men's first- and second-round games in Cleveland.

Houston mayor Sylvester Turner announced Tuesday all city-related events will be canceled or postponed in March, per Len Cannon of KHOU, which could include the South regional final.

COVID-19 has continued to spread globally with more than 115,000 infected and more than 4,000 dead from the respiratory disease, per CNN.com.

World Health Organization director general Tedros Adhanom characterized it officially as a "pandemic" in his latest remarks.

The NCAA tournament is still set to take place for the teams as scheduled, although Emmert noted the governing body can still make "adjustments as needed."