NCAA Tournament to Go Spectator-Free Because of Coronavirus Pandemic

CBS and Turner Networks tip off March Madness on March 17

Michigan v Villanova

The NCAA announced Wednesday that the upcoming NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament will hold its games in front of essential staff and family members only.

Here is the statement from NCAA Mark Emmert.

The NCAA COVID-19 Advisory Panel recognizes the fluidity of COVID-19 and its impact on hosting events in a public space. COVID-19 is spreading rapidly in the United States, and behavioral risk mitigation strategies are the best option for slowing the spread of this disease. This is especially important because mildly symptomatic individuals can transmit COVID-19. Given these considerations, coupled with a more unfavorable outcome of COVID-19 in older adults – especially those with underlying chronic medical conditions – we recommend against sporting events open to the public. We do believe sport events can take place with only essential personnel and limited family attendance, and this protects our players, employees, and fans.

The tournament, which tips off March 17, will air across CBS, TNT, TBS and TruTV.

The Coronavirus, which has sickened more than 118,000 around the world and killed more than 4,300 people, was officially declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization Wednesday morning. In the U.S., confirmed cases have topped 1,000 people.

During a congressional hearing Wednesday, Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, advised that sporting events should ban fans while the disease spreads. “We would recommend that there not be large crowds,” Fauci said . “If that means not having any people in the audience when the NBA plays, so be it. But as a public health official, anything that has large crowds is something that would give a risk to spread.”

Since Tuesday, some cities and states have officially banned gatherings of more than 1,000 and even 250 people, which include sports events. The Golden State Warriors’ game against the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday will be the first NBA contest to be held in an empty arena; San Francisco is one of the cities that has issued some time of public gathering ban.