NCAA Considering Crowd-Less Tournament Amid Coronavirus Fears
Citing player safety, an advocacy group has called for empty arenas during March Madness
As coronavirus continues to gain a foothold in the United States, the spread could affect one of the biggest sporting events of the year. The 2020 NCAA Tournament is set to begin on the men’s side on March 17, but with worries about the virus ramping us as more deaths are reported around the country — the total is up to six so far, all in Washington state — an advocacy group for players has asked the NCAA to consider hosting the tournament behind closed doors.
In a statement, Ramogi Huma, the executive director of the National College Players Association, asked the NCAA to consider a variety of safety precautions before the tournament, up to and including a closed-doors strategy, which would see the games played with no fans in attendance:
Precautions should include cancelling all auxiliary events that put players in contact with crowds such as meet and greets, and press events. Athletic programs should also take every possible measure to sanitize buses and airplanes used to transport players. In regard to the NCAA’s March Madness Tournament and other athletic events, there should also be a serious discussion about holding competitions without an audience present … The NCAA and its colleges must act now, there is no time to waste.
For their part, the NCAA has reiterated that there are no current plans to change anything about the tournament, though they are looking at all options alongside health experts. NCAA COO Donald Remy said as much speaking to Bloomberg earlier this week:
If you can think of it, it’s something that we’ve gone through an analysis around. We’ve contingency planned for all circumstances. […] Today we are planning to conduct our championships as planned; however, we are evaluating the COVID-19 situation daily and will make decisions accordingly.
Already, coronavirus has taken a toll on college athletics, with Chicago State University canceling trips to Utah and Washington for its men’s team, as well as declining to host games on the women’s side. This follows news from Europe of Italy postponing several first division soccer matches due to the spread of coronavirus in the country.
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