March Madness -- and college athletics at large -- will have a very different look in the weeks to come.
On Wednesday, the NCAA COVID-19 Advisory Panel announced that it has recommended against sporting events being open to the general public due to concerns over the coronavirus (COVID-19). Shortly after the recommendation, NCAA President Mark Emmert announced that the NCAA Tournaments (both men's and women's) will be played with only essential personnel in arenas.
"The NCAA COVID-19 Advisory Panel recognizes the fluidity of COVID-19 and its impact on hosting events in a public space," Emmert said in a statement. "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 board's recommendation and Emmert's announcement come just days after the Ivy League canceled its men's and women's basketball tournaments this week over the same concerns. Meanwhile, the Mid-American Conference has proceeded with its conference tournaments in Cleveland while only allowing essential personnel in the arena.
On Wednesday, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine said he would soon be issuing an order restricting the attendance of large gatherings across the state. Cleveland and Dayton are each slated to host NCAA Tournament games next week.