NCAA Tournament, women’s tournament to be played without fans

NCAA president Mark Emmert on Wednesday announced that “only essential staff and limited family” will be allowed to attend all upcoming NCAA championship events, including the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments.

The announcement comes as the sports world continues to deal with the growing coronavirus pandemic, with collegiate and professional sports leagues announcing cancelations, postponements and changes of venues.

Emmert’s statement in full:

“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 family. Today, we will move forward and conduct championships consistent with the current information and will continue monitor and make adjustments as needed.”

Earlier in the day, the NCAA’s COVID-19 advisory panel recommended the move, as colleges around the country address whether to hold classes on campus or send students home and conduct classes online. State and local governments have also been limiting crowd sizes in public spaces, also impacting whether fans will be allowed to attend sporting events.

Shortly after Emmert’s announcement, Associated Press college sports reporter Ralph D. Russo reported that Emmert is looking to move the Final Four — currently scheduled to be played in Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta — to a smaller venue. Russo also reported that the third- and fourth-round regional games could also be moved to smaller venues but in the same city.

The host sites for the regionals this year are Los Angeles (Staples Center), New York (Madison Square Garden), Indianapolis (Lucas Oil Stadium) and Houston (Toyota Center).

The NCAA hasn’t yet determined whether media not involved in the TV broadcasts of each event will be allowed at each site.

–Field Level Media