Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Big 12 Conference announces coronavirus-inspired changes for this week’s basketball tournaments

Kansas head coach Bill Self watches over practice on Wednesday, March 13, 2019 at Sprint Center.

Kansas head coach Bill Self watches over practice on Wednesday, March 13, 2019 at Sprint Center.


The first signs of the coronavirus impacting Big 12 basketball arrived Tuesday afternoon, when the conference announced that locker rooms would be closed to reporters at this week’s Big 12 tournaments at Sprint Center and Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City, Mo.

The move is the latest in a nationwide series of responses to the virus that has rapidly spread at locations throughout the world, impacting everything from public events and travel to the stock market, politics and more.

The Big 12’s announcement came just hours after the Ivy League announced the cancellation of its postseason tournaments and after Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association, the National Hockey League and Major League Soccer announced plans to close its locker rooms, as well.

The men's tournament opens Wednesday night and features top-seeded and No. 1-ranked Kansas playing its first game at 1:30 p.m. Thursday. The women's tournament begins Thursday and runs through Sunday, with 10th-seeded Kansas playing its first game at 8:30 p.m. Thursday.

Citing a desire to “ensure the safety of everyone in attendance,” the Big 12 on Tuesday announced the following changes for this year’s events.

• Locker rooms will be closed to media. All formal, informal and one-on-one interviews will occur in the interview room with coaches and student-athletes seated on the dais. Media must sit in the provided chairs.

• Media will be allowed to attend practices as currently prescribed but will be allowed no closer than behind the second row of the media seating section. Media may not stand on the baselines or behind the scorer’s table and team benches. Media may shoot video or pictures from the stands or upper photo area during practice sessions.

• Media may not access the court at any time during the (tournament). Photographers must stay in the photo boxes or on the sideline in front of the media section at the conclusion of games, including the (tournament final). Arrangements will be made so that photographers can get a picture of the championship team from this location.

While this move will impact the Big 12 tournament, there is growing concern and speculation throughout the sports world that the NCAA Tournament, college basketball’s multi-million-dollar event which is slated to begin March 17 in Dayton, Ohio, could be affected, as well, with the NCAA potentially even playing its signature event without fans in the stands.

Last week, a Division III NCAA Tournament game in Baltimore was played without fans. Signs on the doors to the arena simply read: “No spectators.”

Asked Monday if that move, and talk of others like it, had him concerned about playing the postseason in unusual environments, Kansas coach Bill Self said he had not given it much thought.

“I’ve had enough stuff to think about and worry about in recent weeks or months,” Self said. “We all hope and pray for the best and all that. But whatever happens we’ll deal with and adjust. That’s something we have no control over. But it would obviously be sad for our sport.”

Given the competitiveness of his players, and of college basketball programs as a whole, along with the fact that the games likely would still be televised and the big prize would still be up for grabs, Self said he thought the Jayhawks and all other teams would still compete just as hard.

Those competitions might just look and sound a lot different than people are used to.

“Think about this,” Self said. “Think about a coach yelling at an official with nobody in the gym, compared to when an official can’t hear you. The sportsmanship code will be certainly stressed in that situation because everything you say will become public.

“I do think (it would) be different. And, certainly, (it would) take away (from the events). But I think if you’ve got teams competing for a championship, the drive and the adrenaline will still be there.”


Benjamin Shear 2 months, 3 weeks ago

Can you imagine how empty it would feel to win the National Championship game with zero fans in the stands? Talk about strange and awkward. On one hand, it would be a legit win and tournament even without spectators, but I imagine it would make an impact.

Another option is...we could....let people decide what to do on their own. We make risk decisions every single day. i.e. do I speed? If so, by how much? Do I eat that? Should I fly a plane? And on it goes... Maybe people could decide if it was too much risk for their own health, based on the CDC guidelines, to attend or not attend a sporting event. Maybe there is a good balance between those who are experts giving advice and people taking responsibility for their own decisions. Maybe.

Creg Bohrer 2 months, 3 weeks ago

Yes.. But that decision like flying a plane, eating something you shouldn't doesn't have a potential of effecting thousands of other people..

Benjamin Shear 2 months, 3 weeks ago

Actually, it does. Driving home tonight from work the light turned red. A car two back from me decided to zoom around both me and the car behind me and blatantly run the red light while going 10+ over the speed limit. He took that risk to gain 60 seconds of time. He did not get pulled over and did not crash. But if he had crashed it would have effected many other people and families.

I get what you are saying, but maybe people could decide not to congregate based on the CDC guidance and not have to be forced away. Or they can take a middle approach and wear a mask and wash hands. All I am saying is that the first reaction should not be to simply cancel the event or ban people. Maybe just warning people that they are accepting more risk is enough.

Steven Haag 2 months, 3 weeks ago

While I would hate to see empty seats, I don’t trust quite a few people in this country to “make the right decision”. If I spent $1,000 or more on a ticket, then started experiencing symptoms 1 or 2 days out, would I still go and blow it off as “the flu”? This virus isn’t “world ending”, but I think it’s more serious than what the media leads you to believe. If it wasn’t, the Government would have passed an 8 billion supplemental spending bill. They aren’t telling us the “whole truth”

Brian Conrad 2 months, 3 weeks ago

I am older this could be the dumbest overreaction of anything in my lifetime . So stupid canceling events. Way more chance someone get killed going to event or a frigging mass shooting than death from flu. Heck teams on the airplane . As for that let’s just STOP ALL air traffic. The damage people are inflicting on themselves from financially damaging their future from such a small chance of death. But very large chance people are damaging businesses jobs retirement accounts etc. STOP 🛑 has not been one death of healthy college student in the world !!! so fill stadiums !

Suzi Marshall 2 months, 3 weeks ago

Reports say the virus can no in temperatures over 80 F. Kansas should play in the Houston regional where the temperatures this week reached over 80 for a high.

Eric Meyer 2 months, 3 weeks ago

What an ignorant and insulting action by supposedly educated people at Big 12 universities! COVID-19 isn't going to kill us. All this shouting of fire in a crowded theater will. If the Big 12 is concerned about preventing spread of the disease, it's not the reporters they should be worried about. It's the 18,972 people sitting shoulder-to-shoulder, butt-cheek-to-butt-check in the Sprint Center who could possibly spread the disease, especially when they line up to use the not exactly sanitary facilities, where I'm sure people will be happy to wait in line for 30-second hand-washing for each customer. Even that doesn't make sense. This isn't ebola we're talking about. The death rate for patients hospitalized with coronavirus is less than the death rate for patients hospitalized for flu, and we have no real idea exactly how many people have contracted either of those diseases. The key thing with COVID-19 was that, once upon a time, it was isolated. If the common cold were isolated, we'd make every effort to contain it where it is isolated. That's why the quarantines went up, not because this is bubonic plague.

John Strayer 2 months, 3 weeks ago

Ding! Ding! Ding! Exactly. The people suffering the most from this virus are individuals with impaired immune systems the elderly and those suffering from other immune suppressing illnesses. The risk of this virus for the vast majority of healthy individuals is no more risky than what already exists with the flu. No one cancelled games, tournaments, etc during flu season. Our society is now in all out panic mode...mostly irrational. Good grief, there are even toilet paper shortages being report...toilet paper? Really?

Adam Bengtson 2 months, 3 weeks ago

Get over this paranoia crap. These articles are just lazy. Quit trying to scare everyone. It’s like watching The news and weather man telling you how to protect yourself from a tornado. No **** Sherlock. If you don’t know how to handle these life things by now...consider giving up.

David Robinett 2 months, 3 weeks ago

If our NC tree falls in the forest, it will still make a “sound” in the rafters of the Phog. No court side spectators needed to make it real. Would be disappointing though.

Bryce Landon 2 months, 3 weeks ago

The way our sensationalist media is talking, you would think coronavirus was the beginning of the end of the world or something! It's just another media-driven virus scare, just like all the other virus scares of the past twenty years (swine flu, SARS, Zika, etc.).

The Marxist-Leninist policies of Bernie Sanders and the rest of the Democrat party would do far more damage to America than coronavirus ever will!

Robert Brock 2 months, 3 weeks ago

Cancel the NCAA tournament and declare the Jayhawks NATIONAL CHAMPS!

Benjamin Shear 2 months, 3 weeks ago

That's kind of what the Ivy league did. They cancelled their conference tournament and went old school, choosing the regular season winner to go to the big dance. Since we ended the regular season as #1, that naturally means we are the national champ! Your logic is sound, I approve.

Just a thought, but in many ways, winning your conference and ending the year as the #1 ranked in the country IS like winning the national championship. It takes more consistency to achieve that then winning 6 games in March/April. There is much more luck, and match-up issues involved in the tournament.

Matt Lindaman 2 months, 3 weeks ago

Do they still give out that Waterford Crystal Cup for top ranked team at the end of the regular season? I know KU won a few in the past.

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