Sports | March 8, 2020 11:45 am

The NCAA Tournament Could Utilize Fewer Venues to Battle Coronavirus Fears

March Madness could utilize fewer venues and closed doors to ease health concerns

NCAA coronavirus outbreak
Some NCAA Division III Men's Basketball Championship games were played behind closed doors due to coronavirus spread.
Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Just days after NCAA officials asserted that there were no plans to alter March Madness plans due to the coronavirus outbreak, a report by The New York Times revealed that the organization has escalated its contingency plans for the biggest tournaments of the year. Aside from the scenario where both the men’s and women’s tournaments would be held behind closed doors, the NCAA is also considering a consolidation of venues for the events in order to host games in cities that have been less affected by the virus’s quick spread.

According to the Times, officials discussed the possibility of reining in the sprawl of the tournament in order to ensure player and fan health and safety. Brian Hainline, the NCAA’s chief medical officer, called that plan “a difficult option to carry out,” though he didn’t rule it out. The main concern is that there is still a lot of uncertainty about how the virus is spreading throughout the United States, which makes it hard to plan for a contingency:

We’re playing out every possible scenario, ranging from ‘OK, we’re full-go’ to modified-go to ‘Are we playing a game and we’re certain that everyone in the arena is clean and there won’t be any public?’ […] We’re preparing for a storm, but we don’t know what that storm is going to look like in a week or two weeks or three weeks.

One thing the NCAA keeps reiterating is that there are no plans to cancel the tournaments outright, which should come as no surprise; after all, these are the biggest basketball tournaments for college basketball, and both the importance and the revenue that comes with them would be hard to pass up unless absolutely necessary. Hainline said that it would be “hard to image” a cancellation, even after Ultra Music Festival in Miami and South by Southwest in Austin were both recently shut down for the year.

College basketball’s post-season has already been affected by coronavirus, with John Hopkins University in Baltimore hosting opening round games for the Division III tournament behind closed doors after there were three confirmed cases of the disease in Maryland.

Subscribe here for our free daily newsletter. 

Read the full story at The New York Times