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6 referees ousted from NCAA men’s basketball ‘bubble’ after 1 tests positive for COVID

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH/AP) — A referee for the upcoming, all-Indiana NCAA men’s basketball tournament on Monday tested positive for the coronavirus, the NCAA said Monday night in a statement.

As a result, the positive referee and five other officials who interacted with the referee on Sunday will not participate in the tournament, the NCAA said.

According to a report by Jeff Goodman with the Stadium news outlet, the referees were told to arrive by Sunday night and check into their hotel, but multiple officials said the rooms weren’t ready and there wasn’t any food.

Instead of having the officials wait in a secure area, Goodman reports that they were allowed to leave for dinner and the group went to a steakhouse in downtown Indianapolis.

According to Stadium, when the group returned to the hotel, they took COVID-19 tests and one of the referees tested positive for virus and then tested positive again on Monday morning.

The NCAA statement said, “The infected official must be placed in isolation, and the other officials must be placed in quarantine. Four replacement officials have been previously approved and meet the pre-tournament testing protocols. Two of the officials will not be replaced.”

Stadium reported earlier Monday that referees Ted Valentine, John Higgins and Roger Ayers were among those sent home.

The NCAA brought 60 refs to Indy in total, according to ESPN. They are staying in a “bubble” to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Teams began arriving Monday in Indianapolis. Teams had until Tuesday to tell the NCAA if they cannot meet protocols for the bubble. After Tuesday, teams that have to withdraw will not be replaced; their opponents will advance.

The NCAA on Tuesday said it was not aware of any teams that will have to withdraw from the tournament.

Despite its positive test, Georgia Tech remained in the field, as did Kansas and Virginia — two teams that pulled out of conference tournaments last week and were waiting out quarantines with the hope of being ready for their games Saturday. The NCAA said Virginia was the only one of the 68 teams that had not arrived in Indianapolis as of Tuesday afternoon; the Cavaliers expect to travel Friday for Saturday’s game against Ohio.