The 2020 NCAA Tournament will still be played this March and April, but the tournament will be held without fans amid ongoing concerns and uncertainty regarding the coronavirus, the NCAA announced today.
NCAA President Mark Emmert made a statement on the limiting of attendance at the tournament in a release, saying that based on the advice of NCAA COVID-19 Advisory Panel and discussions with the NCAA Board of Governors, “I have made the decision to conduct our upcoming championship events, including the Division I men's and women's basketball tournaments, with only essential staff and limited family attendance.”
NCAA chief medical officer Brian Hainline told the Wall Street Journal last week that in the “worst-case scenario,” the tournament would still go on without fans, and that scenario is now in play.
On Wednesday, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine announced he will issue an order that no spectators other than athletes, parents and others essential to the game will be permitted at indoor athletic events, at minimum, in Ohio. That includes, among many other events, the First Four games in Dayton and first-round and second-round games in Cleveland.
About an hour later, the NCAA COVID-19 Advisory Panel released a statement that said given the circumstances of the disease, “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.”
Ohio State's basketball team still has yet to learn when and where it will play its first-round game in the NCAA Tournament, but no matter the circumstance, fans will be unable to support the Buckeyes at the game.
Earlier on Wednesday, Ohio State guard CJ Walker was asked about the coronavirus possibly leading to nobody in the stands.
“It's obviously a big thing,” Walker said. “Very concerning, very eye-opening to see how fast it's spreading, things like that. But it's something that we can't control. There's nothing that we can do about it. We've just got to be ready to play, whether we're playing in a gym full of people or a gym with nobody in it. We've just got to be prepared, be ready to play. It's just something that we can't control.”
According to Yahoo Sports' Pete Thamel, NCAA Tournament games will still be televised but a decision has not yet been made on whether other media members will be able to attend.
Per Ralph D. Russo of the Associated Press, the NCAA is looking to move regionals and the Final Four into smaller venues, but first- and second-round sites will not change.
The NCAA announced Wednesday night that refunds for all tickets purchased through official NCAA Championship vendors will be automatically delivered to customers.
Prior to the NCAA's decision, the Big Ten Conference made a statement that its conference tournament – which begins Wednesday evening – would go on as scheduled, with fans allowed. The Big Ten announced later Wednesday, however, that no fans would be allowed to attend the tournament beginning Thursday, and any further Big Ten tournament/championship events for winter and spring sports this year.
Other postseason events run by the NCAA, including the NIT, will not have fans in attendance.