Amid escalating coronavirus concerns, the NCAA has decided that all March Madness games will be played without fans in attendance.
“The NCAA continues to assess the impact of COVID-19 in consultation with public health officials and our COVID-19 advisory panel. Based on their advice and my 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 president Mark Emmert said in a statement today.
The statement comes hours after Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said in a press conference that he will soon issue an order concerning large gatherings that would keep fans away from the tournament’s opening games. (The First Four round is scheduled for March 17 and March 18.)
“The order will be that there will not be spectators there. There can be TV people, there can be radio people, there can be sports writers, there can certainly be the media there, but we’re not going to have the large crowd,” DeWine said during the press conference.
The Golden State Warriors also announced today that tomorrow night’s home game against the Brooklyn Nets will be played without fans and that refunds for tickets will be issued. The sports franchise also said all events at the Chase Center through March 21 will be cancelled or postponed. The announcement was made after the Health Officer of San Francisco, where the Warriors play, issued an order prohibiting group events of 1,000 or more persons.
Today’s news comes during a week where several sports events were canceled or postponed. With the entire country under strict quarantine measures, the Italian National Olympic Committee suspended all team sports competitions until April 3. In Japan, the start of the Nippon Professional Baseball regular season was suspended due to coronavirus concerns. And in the U.S., the BNP Paribas Open and the New York City Half Marathon were both canceled.
Also, four major sports leagues stateside — Major League Baseball, Major League Soccer, the National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League — announced that clubhouses would be closed to media over fears of a potential spread of the coronavirus.
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