6 NCAA Men's Tournament Referees Sent Home After Positive COVID-19 Test

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistMarch 15, 2021

FILE - In this March 16, 2020, file photo, official March Madness 2020 tournament basketballs are displayed in a storeroom at the CHI Health Center Arena, in Omaha, Neb. The dominos started tumbling in March, when the NCAA abruptly called off March Madness, given no choice but to forgo a nearly $800 million TV payment that helps keep the entire college sports machine running. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik, File)
Nati Harnik/Associated Press

Six officials who were scheduled to work the NCAA men's basketball tournament were sent home because one tested positive for COVID-19 and the others were in close contact without wearing masks.

Jeff Goodman of Stadium reported the news Monday, noting the officials were granted permission to leave their hotel to get dinner Sunday night because their rooms were not ready and there was not any food, multiple officials said.

However, one of them tested positive for COVID-19 upon returning to the hotel and then tested positive Monday morning. The group that attended the restaurant together was then sent home because of contact tracing.

The NCAA issued a statement, noting all but two of the officials were replaced:

Jeff Goodman @GoodmanHoops

NCAA has given me a statement regarding 6 officials being told they cannot work the NCAA tourney due to COVID-19 protocols. https://t.co/r3CnqkJgBS https://t.co/JNZ9DfjOOw

Goodman noted the NCAA initially brought 60 officials to Indiana to work the Big Dance compared to the typical 100.

The NCAA is attempting to complete the event after its men's and women's tournaments were canceled last year because of the coronavirus pandemic. As a result, the entire men's tournament will take place in Indiana.

In theory, a controlled environment with less travel will help prevent the virus' spread.

Virginia, Kansas and Duke dropped out of their conference tournaments because of positive COVID-19 tests and contact tracing. The Cavaliers and Jayhawks qualified for the 68-team field.

One of the measures the NCAA took this year was to name four replacement teams should a team in the bracket have to drop out by Tuesday because of COVID-19 concerns. Those teams are Louisville, Colorado State, Saint Louis and Ole Miss.