It’s official: March Madness 2021 will include fans.
In a news release announcing the decision on Friday, the NCAA indicated that the various venues in and around Indianapolis that will host this year’s NCAA Tournament will be allowed to fill 25% of capacity for all rounds of the tournament.
The event capacity will include all participants, essential staff and family members of each participating team’s student-athletes and coaches and a reduced number of fans.
All attendees must wear face coverings and physically distance during the event. Thorough cleaning, disinfecting and safety measures will be a priority in all venues.
Upon hearing the news during his regularly scheduled news conference on Friday, Kansas coach Bill Self sounded excited that fans would be in the stands and even showed off his quick math skills to illustrate how big the crowds can be.
“So if you have a 70,000-seat arena, it means you can still put 18,000 (fans) in there or whatever, or 17,500,” Self said. “So I think that that's that's a good thing and (we’re) certainly thankful for that.”
Not all venues in Indianapolis will be that large. Most will be less than half that size. But the 25% capacity allowance still should allow several thousand fans in each venue for all 67 NCAA Tournament games.
“I think it's great,” Self said. “Of course, I thought all long that families would be able to attend, but this is good.”
The decision to allow up to 25% capacity with physical distancing was made in conjunction with state and local health authorities due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the NCAA announced.
NCAA Chief Medical Officer Dr. Brian Hainline said in the release that the top priority of the NCAA remained ensuring “the safety and well-beging of everyone participating in the event.”
Hainline said NCAA officials had been in constant contact with the organization’s COVID-19 Medical Advisory Group and local health officials to come up with a plan to provide a safe environment. And he thanked Indiana University’s IU Health for providing testing and monitoring services that help make that goal possible.
“We continue to use the knowledge we have gained over the season on how to conduct games in a safe environment,” NCAA President Mark Emmert said in a statement in the release. “I want to thank our host universities and conferences, the Indiana State Health Department, and the leaders in the Marion, Monroe and Tippecanoe county health departments as they help make that possible.”
The 2021 NCAA Tournament will be hosted by Ball State, Butler, the Horizon League, Indiana, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis and Purdue, which are lending their facilities and staffs to assist with tournament operations. The Indiana Convention Center will be used as a practice facility, with multiple courts set up inside the venue.
“This year’s tournament will be like no other, and while we know it won’t be the same for anyone, we are looking forward to providing a memorable experience for the student-athletes, coaches and fans at a once-in-a-lifetime tournament,” said Dan Gavitt, NCAA senior vice president of basketball. “After the cancellation of the 2020 tournament, we are happy to welcome some fans back to all rounds of the Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament.”