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Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Bowlsby: Big 12 limiting fan access to Big 12 tournament beginning with Thursday games

Kansas players practice on Wednesday, March 11, 2020 at Sprint Center. On Wednesday afternoon, the NCAA announced that upcoming basketball tournaments would be played without fans because of concerns about the spread of the coronavirus.

Kansas players practice on Wednesday, March 11, 2020 at Sprint Center. On Wednesday afternoon, the NCAA announced that upcoming basketball tournaments would be played without fans because of concerns about the spread of the coronavirus.

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Kansas City, Mo. — Most fans planning to attend the Big 12 men's basketball tournament on Thursday, Friday and Saturday in Kansas City won't be allowed into the games because of concerns related to coronavirus, the Big 12 announced Wednesday afternoon.

After five hours of conversations and phone calls Wednesday afternoon, Big 12 Conference commissioner Bob Bowlsby announced that the conference was implementing a “limited access” policy for fans at the Big 12 tournament beginning Thursday. The policy essentially will give schools only 125 tickets per game for the remaining contests in the tournament.

The move, which was consistent with what had happened in conferences around the country, was made in an attempt to limit the spread of the coronavirus. The announcement came just a couple of hours after the NCAA announced that the upcoming NCAA Tournament, at cities and sites throughout the country, would be played without fans in attendance, as well.

Bowlsby said arrangements would be made for fans to receive refunds for the Big 12 tournament tickets — most likely through each school's ticket office — and that the decision would lead to a significant loss of revenue for the Big 12 Conference.

The timing of Wednesday’s decision was too close to tip time of the opening-day games between Kansas State and TCU and Oklahoma State and Iowa State, Bowlsby said. So the tournament went on as planned on Wednesday night.

But for the seven remaining games through Saturday evening, teams will be given access to 125 tickets, pegged for family and close friends, and the tickets will be issued on a game-by-game basis instead of the standard per-session basis. The Sprint Center also will be cleared between games. And no pep bands, cheerleaders or spirit squads will be present.

“It’s been an interesting day with a lot of decisions,” Bowlsby said. “Obviously we don’t do this lightly.”

Bowlsby added that taking steps to keep fans out was “painful” but “appropriate.”

The Big 12's announcement applies to both the men's and women's basketball tournaments. The women's tournament also is being hosted in Kansas City, Thursday through Sunday at Municipal Auditorium.

In addition to the previously announced change of closing the locker rooms to media this week, Wednesday’s practice sessions and opening games featured other virus-related precautions. Interviews were conducted at a distance, hand washing and sanitizer stations set up throughout the Sprint Center media room and snacks were put in individual serving cups instead of large bowls.

The Big 12’s decision to limit fan access came after the Jayhawks left the building. But Kansas coach Bill Self and a few KU players reacted to the NCAA Touranment’s decision to move forward without spectators after a light practice at Sprint Center on Wednesday afternoon.

“The thing I told them is it sucks,” Self said. “But it doesn’t just stink for us. It stinks for everybody that wants to go be entertained at a concert, the (stock) market, sporting events, schools. It’s far bigger than just men’s basketball.”

Senior guard Isaiah Moss, who will be playing in his first Big 12 tournament with the Jayhawks, said Self had prepared the team for the possibility of not having fans in the stands this week, as well.

“We know that we still have to compete at a high level and try to win the ball game,” Moss said.

Added Self: “I think we can control our attitudes. I think we can control if we’re going to view this as a negative or a positive and be mature and say, ‘This is life.’ The kids will still play like there’s no tomorrow. It’ll be different, but we’ll make the most of it.”

At a time when some events and tournaments have been canceled altogether — including the entire spring season in the Ivy League — KU sophomore David McCormack said he was happy just to be playing.

“Controlling what we can control is definitely our mindset,” McCormack said. “We’re fortunate enough to still be able to play the game we love and still enjoy it with our teammates and coaches.”

Kansas opens play at this year’s tournament at 1:30 p.m. Thursday.

Comments

Brian Jahelka 8 months, 2 weeks ago

I don't get this at all. If I, as a ticketholder, decided that the risk for me to contract the virus was above my comfort level, I could just stay home. Why does this need to be decided for me by the commish?

David Robinett 8 months, 2 weeks ago

Because somebody from another state who is infected unknowingly sits next to you and spreads it to Kansas City. That’s why.

Brian Jahelka 8 months, 2 weeks ago

So, what about the millions of other people interactions going on in KC this weekend? Like at gas stations, restaurants, bars, movie theaters, etc? Are they shutting down P&L? You could argue that cancelling fans at the games could lessen the chances of it spreading, but nothing is going to stop it unless everyone is quarantined to their homes, right? Surely there are far more folks visiting for other reasons than the tourney...

Mike Greer 8 months, 2 weeks ago

I don't have a problem with the decision, just the timing. There's no shortage of stupid in this country, so yes some jerk that doesn't want to miss his team and comes to the game with symptoms, will infect those around him. What I find amateurish is waiting until the ticket holders have traveled to the game. Sure, the Big XII is going to refund the tournament ticket, but they have let people fly to KC, get their hotels, rental cars, etc. If you're going to make a move like this, put enough thought into it to make a decision before everyone shows up.

W Keith Swinehart II 8 months, 2 weeks ago

Let's hope it is overblown. But stakes are too high. And, the decisions have been made. We don't like it but it's the intelligent and safest move. Everybody is hurting badly. It goes way beyond basketball tournaments.

Brian Jahelka 8 months, 2 weeks ago

I guess one of the scariest things is the possibility of overloading the healthcare system so folks can't be treated... Like you say Keith... There are a lot more important things than having fans at a basketball tournament. Glad I wasn't the one that had to make the call!

Brian Jahelka 8 months, 2 weeks ago

Random thoughts...

1) So like, how are the coaches supposed to coach their players in timeouts without the other team hearing what their plan is?

2) Are they going to have to have a 5 second delay on the broadcast so that they don't broadcast players dropping f-bombs when they miss a shot?

3) They just suspended the NBA season indefinitely... If they cancel the NCAA tournament, does that mean KU wins the national title because of their #1 ranking?

4) If that is the case... No party on Mass street? It would suck to have to pub crawl from one fridge to another in my own house!

Bryce Landon 8 months, 2 weeks ago

Dang, the way everyone is reacting to this coronavirus, you would think the end of the world is upon us. Everybody GET A GRIP! It's just the latest in a long line of virus scares over the past 20 years. Just like bird flu, swine flu, West Nile, Zika, and all the others, this too shall pass.

Jonathan Allison 8 months, 2 weeks ago

1) So like, how are the coaches supposed to coach their players in timeouts without the other team hearing what their plan is?

Quietly, like they used to in HSs and small gyms all across America. But chances are the other team's coach is going to be coaching just as hard as our coach during TOs, and the players will be listening to their coach. Maybe the assistants will be trying to overhear the game plan. But, I don't they'll be too surprised when they hear the coach tell the players to "block out. don't turn it over. play hard. don't foul" etc.

2) Are they going to have to have a 5 second delay on the broadcast so that they don't broadcast players dropping f-bombs when they miss a shot?

Yes, but it's nothing new. They've been doing it for years. There might be a lot more editing going on though without having any crowd noise.

3) They just suspended the NBA season indefinitely... If they cancel the NCAA tournament, does that mean KU wins the national title because of their #1 ranking?

This is a good question. I suspect that the NCAA tourney will be cancelled as soon as one of the players has a positive test. And I bet that it WILL happen. My guess would be that they just don't name a champion if they don't finish the tourney. But they could get creative and try to figure out a way to have a champion.

4) If that is the case... No party on Mass street? It would suck to have to pub crawl from one fridge to another in my own house!

If KU is crowned as Champions, I suspect there will be no shortage of parties in Lawrence. Regardless of whether or not they shut down Mass street.

Relax, sit back, have fun, and enjoy the ride.

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