Originally published March 11, 2020 at 03:45p.m., updated March 11, 2020 at 04:47p.m.

NCAA announces upcoming basketball tournaments will be played without fans in attendance

FILE - In this March 14, 2012, file photo, a player runs across the NCAA logo during practice in Pittsburgh before an NCAA tournament college basketball game. What some call the sleezy side of college basketball recruiting will be on display at a criminal trial starting Monday, Oct. 1, 2018, in New York. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic, File)

FILE - In this March 14, 2012, file photo, a player runs across the NCAA logo during practice in Pittsburgh before an NCAA tournament college basketball game. What some call the sleezy side of college basketball recruiting will be on display at a criminal trial starting Monday, Oct. 1, 2018, in New York. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic, File)


NCAA tournament games will not be open to the general public because of concerns about the spread of coronavirus.

NCAA President Mark Emmert said Wednesday that he made the decision to conduct both the men's and women's tournaments, which begin next week, with only essential staff and limited family in attendance. The decision comes after the NCAA's COVID-19 advisory panel of medical experts recommended against playing sporting events open to the general public.

Emmert told The Associated Press that canceling the tournament was considered.

“The decision was based on a combination of the information provided by national and state officials, by the advisory team that we put together of medical experts from across the country, and looking at what was going to be in the best interest of our student-athletes, of course," Emmert told the AP in an phone interview. “But also the public health implications of all of this. We recognize our tournaments bring people from all around the country together. They're not just regional events. They're big national events. It's a very, very hard decision for all the obvious reasons."

Emmert said the NCAA also was looking into moving the men's Final Four from Atlanta's Mercedes-Benz Stadium to a smaller arena. The NCAA will consider using smaller venues for regional sites currently scheduled to be played at the Toyota Center in Houston; Madison Square Garden in New York; Staples Center in Los Angeles and Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

The decision applies to more than just men's and women's basketball. All NCAA-sponsored championships including hockey’s Frozen Four will be affected.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover from the new virus.

The 68-team field for the men's basketball tournament is scheduled to be announced Sunday and the 64-team women's tournament field is to be unveiled Monday. Games begin Tuesday and Wednesday on the men's side in Dayton, Ohio, where earlier Wednesday the governor said he would issue an order to restrict spectator access to indoor sporting events.

The Mid-American Conference on Tuesday announced it was closing its men's and women's basketball tournament games at Cleveland’s Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, home of the NBA's Cleveland Cavaliers and scheduled site of the men's NCAA games, to the general public. The women's tournament started Wednesday.

The Big West Conference announced a similar move, not allowing the general public into its basketball tournament games to be played this week at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California.

Conference college basketball tournaments are in full swing across the country this week. The Atlantic Coast Conference is in Day 2 of its five-day men's tournament in Greensboro, North Carolina, and the Pac-12 played the first game of its tournament in Las Vegas on Wednesday.

Later Wednesday, the Southeastern Conference was to begin its men's tournament in Nahsville, Tennessee; the Big East was set to start at Madison Square Garden in New York; and the Big Ten was scheduled to tip off in Indianapolis. There were no plans to restrict fan access to those events.

March Madness hits another level next week with the start of the NCAA Tournament to crown a national champion, one of the most popular events on the American sports calendar.

There are eight first- and second-round sites for the men's tournament, scheduled to be played March 19-22. Locations include Cleveland; Spokane, Washington; Albany, New York; Sacramento, California; and Omaha, Nebraska. The four regional sites for the second weekend of the tournament are Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Houston and New York. The Final Four is in Atlanta, with the semifinals on April 4 and the championship game April 6.

The women's tournament first- and second-round games begin March 21 and will be played at 16 sites, mostly on or close the campuses of the top seeded teams. The regionals will be played in Dallas, Greenville, South Carolina; Portland, Oregon; and Fort Wayne, Indiana. The Final Four will be held in New Orleans on April 3 and 5.


Len Shaffer 2 years, 8 months ago

Wow, is this going to be a strange March Madness. Such a shame it has to happen when KU is the prohibitive favorite.

Bryce Landon 2 years, 8 months ago

If they won't allow fans to attend the games, then why not just hold the damn tournament in elementary school gyms? >:(

Jeff Coffman 2 years, 8 months ago

I suggest that they play the final four in the most hallowed of all venues then...Allen Fieldhouse.

It might end our consecutive sellout crowds...but how awesome and a pretty good consolation prize.

Brian Hosfelt 2 years, 8 months ago

Plain stupid...millions of people ride subways every day

Ryan Mullen 2 years, 8 months ago

This whole Fing thing is over blown. It's just as bad as the flu! Maybe nobody should go out of there house ever again. Let's all just sit on our phones and be zombies. I blame the media on this whole thing. I will blame them when the economy further tanks. Fing idiots.

Bryce Landon 2 years, 8 months ago

You got the wheels turning in my head, Ryan. What if the liberal media is overhyping coronavirus in order to bring the economy into a recession to discredit President Trump and bring about his electoral defeat in November?

Brett McCabe 2 years, 8 months ago

Good catch. We’ve been plotting the outbreaks in China since 2016. And Italy. And those old dead people in Washington? Collateral damage. You figured us out!

The one thing you can count on is the that the first stupid post will either be Bryce posting anything or Suzy losing her discipline once again.

Bryce Landon 2 years, 8 months ago

Pretty rich that you, of all people, would accuse anyone of posting anything stupid. Aren't you the one who harps and harps about Bill Self being a crooked coach who needs to be fired and wants to see the NCAA throw the book at the Jayhawks? Piss off, numbnuts; no one likes you.

RJ King 2 years, 8 months ago

So the World Health Organization is now the Media??? How old are some of you, and what the hell are you reading or listening to?

Bryce Landon 2 years, 8 months ago

The biggest overreaction to coronavirus yet!

Suzi Marshall 2 years, 8 months ago

This hysteria has gone way beyond crazy! It’s 83 damn degrees in Houston today! The Standard flue is worst than this WuFlu and neither can survived be the HOUSTON heat! Just move the whole damn tournament to warm weather sites. I’ll sign a damn waiver and wear a hazmat suit to attend games this year!

Barry Weiss 2 years, 8 months ago

agree, this thing is a mess. We always have had such an amazing fan base, either living in the city of the game, or those that travel. To some extent this sort of takes that advantage away from us. But our team is tough and will win this on their own. Go Jayhawks!!

W Keith Swinehart II 2 years, 8 months ago

Covid19 is completely unknown for now. Relative safety and flu comparisons are completel speculation. Gambling with life and health with unknown odds. Lawsuits await those who would gamble otherwise.

Suzi Marshall 2 years, 8 months ago

That's total BS and you should know it. The WuFlu is an engineered bioweapon. We have 'closed environment real time test data' from the cruise ship. We know the R0 is less than the H1N1 and is less lethal than the ordinary flu. The lethality is high for elderly and unhealthy people...but the lethality for those groups his high for everything! We've had so damn much BS thrown at us the past few years. 'They' weaponozed the IC, the media, drefrauded the courts, blew 40Mil on a Russia hoax investigation, conducted a BS NCAA investigation, staged a fake impeachment, we have a pandemic? .... If the FBI is good for anything, they should investigate who/how weaponized and released this WuFlu and why is the media hyping it like the end of the world? Now the Houston Rodeo and attendance to the NCAA is cancelled......BS, BS, BS!!!!

Creg Bohrer 2 years, 8 months ago

My goodness Suzi I thought you weren't a crazy conspiracy theory nut.. This virus is way worse than the flu,the flu has aprox. .08% mortality rate this virus is 2 to 2.5% and it spreads a lot faster than the flu. I also recommend reading the Mueller report before you just write off the investigation as a hoax. lastly please remove the tinfoil underneath your MAGA hat.

Armen Kurdian 2 years, 8 months ago

And I just posted this on another article that this was a possibity not thirty minutes prior to the announcement.

Benjamin Shear 2 years, 8 months ago

Insanity. You know who I feel bad for? The players. They are the ones getting the short end of the stick. The nanny state grows and grows, and the coddling of the American mind (and body) is reaping the fruit of its labor. Key phrases and words you hear that identify those who advocate this coddling include; 'problematic', 'out of an abundance of caution', and 'the best interest of [insert group]. One day we will look back on this and laugh. But for now, the emperor has no clothes and we all know it.

Andy Tweedy 2 years, 8 months ago

Since I live in Omaha, I'm 1) sad, but 2) richer!

Armen Kurdian 2 years, 8 months ago

So I'm not a chicken little, I don't overreact, I'm one of those guys who 95% of the time would agree with the anger on this board. However, this is just a black swan event that has to be treated differently.

A vaccine will not be available for a year. Humans do not have an inherent immunity to the virus. Mortality rate for CV-19 is averaging out to 2% - 2.5%, as opposed to less than 0.2% from the more common strains of influenza. And we don't really know if this is going to go away come warmer weather.

It really, really sucks that it's happening in a year when KU is so good. When you look at what has happened in Italy, what might be happening in Germany, what's happening in Iran, this was the right decision.

The spread of this virus has to be slowed down. It cannot be stopped, but we have to slow it down.

Stuart Corder 2 years, 8 months ago

What’s the next?

Are they going to make the tournament a “Pay-Per-View” event?

Will the NBA follow the NCAA and blow up their industry?

That would be tragic if BOTH my Jayhawks earning the top overall seed so they get to play nearby, and my OKC Thunder going from “tank” to “potential home court playoff advantage” are squandered by fear mongering sensationalism.

The NCAA (and NBA) knows fans will still watch.

Regardless, not even the coronavirus can stop Dok.

Michael Sillman 2 years, 8 months ago

I’m not sure why some government officials are specifically targeting inside events. Spectators at football and other outdoor events are crammed into spaces that certainly violate the 6 foot separation guidance. Plus the wind at outdoor events would be expected to spread the mist from coughing and sneezing over a wider field. Life has changed until they develop an effective vaccine.

Brett McCabe 2 years, 8 months ago

A wise decision.

Amazing how cavalier people can be with other people’s lives. You need to question your soul when you are comparing the number of dead from one thing to another, as if there is a threshold that must be met in order for you to be bothered.

Mallory Briggans 2 years, 8 months ago

That is true . It has been said to be a hoax..... for those affected and infected and those who have died they would beg to differ. It will be surreal watching the games on tv ...........but there were some who wanted the tourney to be cancelled entirely....... given i would have watched the tournament at home i will watch with the sound down ........

Micky Baker 2 years, 8 months ago

It's bizarre. They don't know who has it, because so many are asymptomatic of the Corona Virus. They could be carrying it without knowing it, and they can have already had it and not known it because the symptoms were mild and are really the same symptoms as a common cold or flu. But I don't see a reason to panic yet.

Steven Haag 2 years, 8 months ago

It’s always best to wait a spell before blurting out knee jerk reactions. I don’t see this decision as a “panic” reaction as some posters say. Is it “overly” cautious? Perhaps. The NBA has suspended all games(for the time being). All flights to and from Europe have been cancelled for the next 30 days. The flu kills more and effects more people every year.......but at least there is a vaccine for the flu. This virus has a high mortality rate for those over 60 and with underlying health issues. I’m OK with this decision. It bad, but every human life is important. To think college basketball is more important than that is just foolishness.

Jonathan Allison 2 years, 8 months ago

The tourney will be cancelled as soon as one player on a tourney team tests positive for COVID-19.

It will happen probably before next Thursday.

Jonathan Allison 2 years, 8 months ago

moving along ahead of schedule now. probably by the end of the day, definitely before the selection show.

Ashwin Rao 2 years, 8 months ago

I agree with the approach. We have selfish reasons for not wanting this changed, but unless we know details of the virus, and the knowledge of the fact that this virus kills older/sicker folks, makes the decision to take precaution a no-brainer.

Certain people can come up with baseless conspiracy theories, and that does not change my mind, and will not change the decisions that were made.

Brian Mellor 2 years, 8 months ago

If you’re really going to start saying this worldwide issue is just a hoax to unseat your political agenda and its actor agents, you probably need to screw your head back on a couple quarter turns at least.

I know there are a lot of derpers here but man, have some pride. We can see you.

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