While the world is grappling with the ongoing Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, leaders from the largest operations to the smallest groups are taking action to help prevent the spread of the illness.
The CDC currently recommends avoiding large groups as one technique for limiting exposure to the virus, which has led to college administrators as well as conference and NCAA officials to make decisions about the upcoming tournaments that draw scores of fans to arenas around the country—indeed, last year’s national championship game drew over 72,000 fans to U.S. Bank Arena in Minneapolis, MN.
Below you’ll find a list of updates as decisions are made about the cancellation of college basketball events/major alterations to attendance or media practices.
Update (9:18 p.m.):
Even more conferences have announced that they are prohibiting fans from attending their tournaments. Shortly after both the Pac-12 and SEC announced fans would no longer be allowed into remaining tournament games, the Atlantic 10—which is currently holding its conference tournament in Brooklyn—made the same decision:
Atlantic 10 Commissioner Bernadette McGlade tells me that the Atlantic 10 Tournament at the Barclays Center will have no spectators or fans starting on Thursday.— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) March 12, 2020
Update (7:45 p.m.):
The Southland Conference Tournament is already underway, but league officials have made the decision to close future games to the public. In its release, the Southland Conference noted that, “the Southland and its member institutions will provide a refund policy to fans who have purchased tickets.”
Update (7:35 p.m.):
Even after the NCAA announced that fans wouldn’t be allowed at NCAA Tournament games and both the Big 12 and Big Ten followed suit, the Big Sky Conference announced it would be continuing its tournament as planned. This means that fans would still be allowed to attend games.
Big Sky tournament says it will go forward (as of now) with no changes. Fans still allowed.— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanHoops) March 11, 2020
The Big Sky Tournament is taking place in Boise, Idaho, one of only nine states yet to report a case of the coronavirus. Neighboring Montana, home to two other Big Sky schools, has also not yet reported any cases of coronavirus.
Update: 6:53 p.m.
The SWAC is the latest school to bar the general public from its tournament games.
SWAC TOURNAMENT (Birmingham, AL): Closed to general public. Only essential staff and limited family attendance will be permitted. @WJTV— Noah Newman (@NoahNewmanWJTV) March 11, 2020
The men’s and women’s tournaments are scheduled to play out Friday and Saturday in Birmingham. As of now, the tournament is still on with only essential staff and family allowed in.
Update (4:42 p.m.):
The WAC announced from the conference’s official Twitter account that it will still allow fans at the WAC Tournament, which kicks off tomorrow at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas on March 12.
ATTENTION WAC NATION— The Western Athletic Conference (@WACsports) March 11, 2020
As of current, we ARE still allowing fans into all tournament games. If anything changes, we will let everyone know.
Stay safe, wash your hands!
The WAC Tournament runs through March 14.
The Reno Gazette Journal reported on March 11 that the state of Nevada now has seven cases of the coronavirus, including a woman in her 40s who attended a conference on the Las Vegas Strip from March 5-8.
Update (4:30 p.m.):
With multiple conferences either cancelling tournaments or preventing fans from attending, the NCAA’s COVID-19 Advisory Panel issued a statement on Wednesday afternoon urging that upcoming sporting events be closed to the public:
Shortly thereafter, NCAA President Mark Emmert announced that upcoming college basketball tournaments would be held without spectators. Attendance will be allowed only for “essential staff and limited family...”
Update (3:45 p.m.):
The Ivy League, which was the first D-I conference to announce any major action concerning the coronavirus, announced cancellations that went far beyond the league’s basketball tournament:
The Ivy League Presidents are announcing their unanimous decision to cancel all spring athletics practice and competition through the remainder of the academic year amid further developments in the outbreak of COVID-19.— The Ivy League (@IvyLeague) March 11, 2020
» https://t.co/LVTUxHsswo pic.twitter.com/VAL7IkBWaB
The release went on to note that, “[i]ndividual institutions will decide whether or not winter teams and student-athletes who have qualified for postseason play will participate.”
Additionally, the Ivy League is requesting waivers from the NCAA to make up for the cancelled seasons:
Ivy League personnel just told me it will likely request a blanket waiver/extra year for all spring sport athletes whose seasons were just canceled.— Dana O'Neil (@DanaONeilWriter) March 11, 2020
Update (2:55 p.m.):
Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, in response to the coronavirus outbreak which has currently led to four reported cases of the illness in his state, issued an order that NCAA Tournament games in Ohio will be played without fans:
The governor of Ohio further clarified: The state will issue an order that NCAA tournament games in Ohio, which included the First Four in Dayton, will be played without spectators.— Adam Kilgore (@AdamKilgoreWP) March 11, 2020
This will affect the First Four games held annually in Dayton as well as the first and second round games that were to be held in Cleveland.
Update (1:34 p.m.):
Washington has been the hardest-hit state in the country, as over 200 coronavirus cases have already been confirmed there. As a result, Governor Jay Inslee is preventing gatherings of more than 250 people in Snohomish, King and Pierce counties in an effort to curb the virus’ spread.
Washington Gov. Inslee just confirmed state will take a more “vigorous” stance, including the prohibition of sporting events of more than 250. https://t.co/s67zk3ARaU— NBC Sports Northwest (@NBCSNorthwest) March 11, 2020
As the above piece notes, some NCAA Tournament games will take place in Washington later this month (albeit in a county outside the current ban):
Spokane, Wash., is scheduled to host the first and second round of the men’s NCAA March Madness Tournament on March 19-21. On Tuesday, the NCAA said it will continue to “assess how COVID-19 impacts the conduct of our tournaments and events.”
Update (12:59 p.m.):
On the heels of the CBI’s announcement about its cancellation, the CollegeInsider Tournament, another pay-to-play postseason basketball tournament, announced in a statement to ESPN that it was still proceeding as planned:
Statement from the CIT to ESPN: "At this time, the CollegeInsider Tournament (CIT) is still scheduled to be played starting next week."— Jeff Borzello (@jeffborzello) March 11, 2020
Update (12:42 p.m.):
The CBI, among the most prominent postseason college basketball tournaments, announced on Wednesday, March 11, that it would be cancelling the entire event. It is important to note that the CBI is a pay-to-play tournament, as schools must pay a fee of $50,000 to participate.
Statement regarding the 2020 CBI pic.twitter.com/5SPabjpC1V— College BBall Invit. (@CBITourney) March 11, 2020
Update (6:40 p.m.):
Following the news of the cancellation of the Ivy League Tournament, both the MAC and the Big West announced that they would be holding their rapidly approaching conference tournaments without spectators:
BREAKING: The MAC bball tournaments in will be closed to the public.— Chris Vannini (@ChrisVannini) March 10, 2020
"Only credentialed institutional personnel, student-athlete family members, credentialed media, television and radio crews, and official team party members will be permitted for attendance for the tournaments." pic.twitter.com/2Hbq6BxB1W
The Big West Conference has announced that the league's basketball tournaments will be played without spectators as a precaution for preventing the spread of the COVID-19 virus.— Big West Conference (@BigWestSports) March 10, 2020
» https://t.co/I0PtYUIqTP pic.twitter.com/Wkh8esQhzg
Update (late afternoon):
Multiple prominent players and coaches affiliated with Ivy League schools in either the past or present spoke out in disfavor of the Ivy League Tournament’s cancellation. The below tweet is from Bryce Aiken, a Harvard senior guard. The Crimson finished second in the Ivy League this year.
Horrible, horrible, horrible decision and total disregard for the players and teams that have put their hearts into this season. This is wrong on so many levels and the @IvyLeague should do its due diligence to find a better solution. Everyone knows the risks of playing! https://t.co/HQXprzX9q6— Bryce Aiken (@BryceAiken) March 10, 2020
The following is a quote from Penn head coach Steve Donahue, who also spent time as Cornell’s head coach from 2000-2010:
Penn coach Steve Donahue: “To pull this from our kids, it’s the most horrific thing I’ve dealt with as a coach.” https://t.co/fAcP9ZTc57— Mike Jensen (@jensenoffcampus) March 10, 2020
Following the news, Ivy League players and coaches released a petition on Change.org demanding the conference reinstate the now-cancelled tournament. At time of posting, over 7,000 people have signed the petition.
The petition’s text was scathing, stating that:
The hypocrisy of our Ivy League presidents is baffling and alarming. We are disappointed and disheartened that they would discriminate against one sport and allow the others to continue to compete. Other conferences, such as the SEC and Pac - 12, are still scheduled to host their men’s basketball championship tournaments.
Update (11:21 a.m.):
Following the news that Ivy League Tournament host Harvard University cancelled in-person classes for the remainder of the semester, the Ivy League itself announced on Tuesday morning that it would be cancelling its conference tournament, awarding the league’s automatic bid to the Yale Bulldogs, the conference’s regular season champion.
The Ivy League has decided to cancel the League's upcoming Basketball Tournaments and implement highly-restrictive, in-venue spectator limitations for all other upcoming campus athletics events.— The Ivy League (@IvyLeague) March 10, 2020
» https://t.co/Y4nEjbsh0N pic.twitter.com/8zsrweXVXo
Update (10:08 a.m.):
Early in the morning, before any cancellations were made, Jeff Zucker reassured the media that the NCAA Tournament was still operating according to its normal schedule.
On conference call, Turner's Jeff Zucker says the tournament plan is proceeding as scheduled amid coronavirus concerns. Still monitoring and this is subject to change, of course.— Mid-Major Madness (@mid_madness) March 10, 2020