INDIANAPOLIS (WISH/AP) — The president of the NCAA said Wednesday that upcoming championship events, including the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments leading to the Final Four, will be conducted with essential staff and limited family attendance.
Later Wednesday, the Big Ten Conference announced Wednesday night’s men’s basketball tournament games at Bankers Life Fieldhouse will be the last to have an audience. Beginning Thursday, Big Ten men’s tournament games and all other Big Ten sports will be limited to student-athletes, coaches, event staff, essential team and Big Ten staff, TV network partners, credentialed media, and immediate family members of the participating teams.
Several conferences have men’s basketball tourneys underway prior to Sunday’s selection of teams for the NCAA tournament.
Emmert told The Associated Press that the men’s Final Four could be moved from Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium to a smaller arena. The NCAA will consider using smaller venues for regional sites currently scheduled to be played at the Toyota Center in Houston; Madison Square Garden in New York; Staples Center in Los Angeles and Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
“The decision was based on a combination of the information provided by national and state officials, by the advisory team that we put together of medical experts from across the country, and looking at what was going to be in the best interest of our student-athletes, of course,” Emmert told the AP in an phone interview. “But also the public health implications of all of this. We recognize our tournaments bring people from all around the country together. They’re not just regional events. They’re big national events. It’s a very, very hard decision for all the obvious reasons.”
In Indianapolis, Indiana Sports Corp. on March 26 and 28 will host the men’s basketball Midwest Regional at Lucas Oil Stadium. The men’s Final Four will be April 4 and 6 in Atlanta.
In Fort Wayne, Purdue Fort Wayne on March 28 and 30 will host the women’s basketball Midwest Regional at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum. The women’s Final Four will be April 3 and 5 in Smoothie King Center in New Orleans.
Emmert’s message on Twitter said, “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. While I understand how disappointing this is for all fans of our sports, my decision is based on the current understanding of how COVID-19 is progressing in the United States. This decision is in the best interest of public health, including that of coaches, administrators, fans and, most importantly, our student-athletes. We recognize the opportunity to compete in an NCAA national championship is an experience of a lifetime for the students and their families. Today, we will move forward and conduct championships consistent with the current information and will continue to monitor and make adjustments as needed.”
Stacey Osburn, director of communications for the NCAA, said in an earlier message Wednesday, “The NCAA COVID-19 Advisory Panel recognizes the fluidity of COVID-19 and its impact on hosting events in a public space. COVID-19 is spreading in the United States, and behavioral risk mitigation strategies are the best option for slowing the spread of this disease. This is especially important because mildly symptomatic individuals can transmit COVID-19. Given these considerations, coupled with a more unfavorable outcome of COVID-19 in older adults — especially those with underlying chronic medical conditions — we recommend against sporting events open to the public. We do believe sport events can take place with only essential personnel and limited family attendance, and this protects our players, employees, and fan.”
The Atlantic Coast and Big 12 conferences also announced Wednesday that they would be playing without fans starting with Thursday’s quarterfinal rounds.
Indiana Sports Corp canceled the following fan events connected to the Big Ten Tournament on Wednesday: IN the Game Block Party, Tournament Tailgate, Free Throw Competition, Boys Basketball Clinic, Big Ten Circuit on the Circle, and the Championship Sunday Pep Rally.
Also on Wednesday night, ESPN reported the NBA’s Board of Governors shared a consensus on Wednesday to continue the season playing games without fans in arenas. Commissioner Adam Silver is expected to announced a decision Thursday.
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Indiana coronavirus timeline
- March 6: Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) confirms the first case in Indiana. Officials say the Marion County resident had recently traveled to Boston to attend a BioGen conference as a contractor.
- March 8: ISDH confirms a second case. An adult in Hendricks County who had also traveled to the BioGen conference was placed in isolation. Noblesville Schools announces that a parent and that parent’s children will be self-quarantining after attending an out-of-state event where someone else tested positive.
- March 9: ISDH’s total of positive cases rises to 4. Avon Community School Corp. had announced on March 8 that a student tested positive; that case, along with another in Noble County, was confirmed by state health officials at a news conference.
- March 10: ISDH’s total of positive cases rises to 6 as the state launches an online tracker. Purdue and Indiana universities suspend classes for two weeks beyond their spring breaks. Ball State University basketball fans learn the Mid-American Conference tourney will have no fans in the stands. Three businesses operating nursing homes in Indiana announce they will no longer allow visitors.
- March 11: ISDH confirms four more positive cases in Indiana. The University of Indianapolis announces it will extend its ongoing spring break through March 22. The Indianapolis-based NCAA announces the men’s and women’s Final Four basketball tournaments will be conducted with essential staff and limited family attendance. The Big Ten announces all sports events, including the men’s basketball tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, will have no fans starting March 12. Ball State University announces classes are suspended for the rest of the spring semester. NBA suspends all games, including the Indiana Pacers, until further notice. Butler University extends its spring break, after which it will go to virtual classes.
- March 12: ISDH’s total of positive cases rises 12. Taylor University cancels international and domestic spring break trips for students and faculty sponsors. Indianapolis’ annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade is canceled. Gov. Eric Holcomb announces new protections that led to extended public school closings and the cancellation of large events across the state. The league including the Indy Fuel hockey team suspends its season. Indy Eleven says it will reschedule four matches, including its April 4 home opener. The NCAA cancels the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments. The Big Ten suspends all sporting events through the winter and spring seasons.
- March 13: Gov. Holcomb announces additional actions — they included eliminating Medicaid co-pays for COVID-19 testing and lifting regulations limiting the number of work hours per day for drivers of commercial vehicles — to help stop the coronavirus. Wayzata Home Products, a Connersville cabinet maker, shut down and lays off its entire workforce due to market uncertainty associated with the coronavirus. The Indiana High School Athletic Association postpones the boys basketball tournament. Franklin College says it will have no in-person classes March 16 and 17, start online classes March 18 through at least April 5 and empty residence halls of students by 5 p.m. March 15. The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis says it will be closed March 14-28. The Indianapolis Public Library joins other libraries across Indiana and says it will close all facilities until further notice beginning at 5 p.m. March 14.
- March 14: ISDH’s total number of positive cases rises to 15. The Indiana Gaming Commission says all licensed gaming and racing operations will close 14 days starting March 16.
- March 15: ISDH’s total number of positive cases rises to 19, with 121 tested. St. Vincent Hospital in Indianapolis announces all elective, non-urgent surgeries are canceled as of Tuesday.
- March 16: Gov. Eric Holcomb announces the first Hoosier death. ISDH’s total number of positive cases rises to 24. Holcomb closes bars, restaurants and nightlubs to in-person patrons, while carryout and delivery services will still be allowed.
- March 17: ISDH announces the second Hoosier death. Indiana’s Catholic bishops announce the cancellation of Sunday and weekday public masses. Gov. Holcomb activates the National Guard to assist as needed with the virus response. Purdue, Butler and Indiana State universities cancel May commencement ceremonies.
- March 18: ISDH’s total number of positive cases rises to 39. Eli Lilly and Co. says it will use its labs to speed up testing in Indiana for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. The 500 Festival announces suspends all planned, in-person events scheduled through May 9. Simon Property Group closes all malls and retail properties until March 29.
- March 19: ISDH’s total number of positive cases rises to 56. Gov. Holcomb extends Indiana’s state of emergency into May. Holcomb says all K-12 public schools will be closed until May 1 and nonpublic schools also are to close. Standardized testing was canceled. The state’s income-tax and corporate-tax payment deadline was extended to July 15. Holcomb says the state will waive job search requirements for people applying for Temporary Assistance to Needy Families. The IHSAA Boys Basketball State Tournament was canceled. The Marion County Emergency Operations Center upgrades to Level 1 status.
- March 20: ISDH reports the third Hoosier death and 23 new cases for a total of 79. Gov. Holcomb moves the state’s primary election to June 2. Indiana University says it is postponing May commencement ceremonies on all campuses. Indiana University Health says it can do limited virus testing.
- March 21: ISDH reports the fourth Hoosier death, and 47 new cases positive for a total of 126. A total of 833 people have been tested for the virus. Indiana National Guard details how it’s working with the Department of Transportation on distribution of medical supplies to hospitals.
- March 22: Indiana’s death toll rises to 7. ISDH reports 75 more positive cases.
- March 23: ISDH reports 259 cases of COVID-19, up from 201 a day earlier. Gov. Holcomb orders Hoosiers deemed nonessential to “stay at home” from March 24-April 7. Eli Lilly & Co. begins drive-thru testing for the coronavirus for health care workers with a doctor’s order. Ball State University cancels the May commencement.
- March 24: Indiana’s death toll rises to 13. Fred Payne of Indiana Workforce Development says any Hoosiers out of work, including temporary layoffs, are eligible to apply for unemployment benefits.
- March 25: Indiana’s death toll rises 17. Indianapolis Motor Speedway announces the Indianapolis 500 is moved to Aug. 23. IndyGo suspends fares and changes its ride schedules.
- March 26: Indiana’s death toll rises to 25. Marion County adds 192 new positive COVID-19 cases, the most of any county in the state for the day, for a total of 484. Indiana has 981 confirmed cases.