Update: The Big Ten issued a statement at 5:40 pm CT Wednesday with the information that fans will not be allowed at the Big Ten Men’s Basketball Tournament starting Thursday. The conference also announced that all other winter and spring sport competitions, including championship/tournament events, will be limited to the teams, essential staff, credentialed media and immediate family of participating teams.
Well, things have officially gotten both serious and weird. Empty stadiums for March Madness it is.
NCAA President Mark Emmert released a statement Wednesday afternoon saying that attendance will be limited at upcoming championship events due to fears relating to the spread of COVID-19, the novel coronavirus. Most notably, fans will not be allowed at the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments.
Emmert’s statement can be read in full below:
This decision is one of the scenarios that had been floated by those in the know in recent weeks, and it has now come true. On Tuesday, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine announced that the state wouldn’t allow indoor sporting events to host fans. Dayton will host the First Four matchups, and Cleveland is one site of first and second round games in the men’s tournament.
Northwestern women’s basketball is in line to earn a seed high enough to host the first and second rounds of the NCAA Tournament at Welsh-Ryan Arena, but it looks as if the home-court advantage for NU will be limited to ease of travel.
The Wildcats canceled their Selection Monday watch party for the team around the same time as the NCAA’s announcement.
It is unclear exactly who qualifies as “essential personnel,” and it is undecided as to whether media will be allowed at the games.
I'm told the NCAA tournament games will still be televised but the policy re media attendance is still being worked out. Fluid situation to say the least.— Seth Davis (@SethDavisHoops) March 11, 2020
If no further changes occur to the structure and logistics of the tournaments, it will certainly be odd for both teams to play in empty stadiums with so much on the line. Per the above tweet, we expect that television broadcasts of the games will continue as planned, but they will obviously have a much different feel without fans in attendance.
The Big Ten released a statement earlier Wednesday that its men’s conference basketball tournament would go on without any major changes and that spectators would be allowed. This contrasts with the Ivy League, which canceled its conference tournament entirely, and the Mid-American and Big West Conferences, who announced Tuesday that their conferences tourneys would be held without fan attendance.
This story will be updated as more information becomes available.