Concern over the spread of the Wuhan virus has prompted the cancellation of many scheduled events and large gatherings across the country. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) announced its decision on Wednesday to exclude fans from their upcoming March Madness basketball tournament.
"The NCAA continues to assess the impact of COVID-19 in consultation with public health officials and our COVID-19 advisory panel," NCAA President Mark Emmert said in a statement. "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.NCAA President Mark Emmert said in a statement."
Sports Illustrated said the announcement, coming just five days before the 68-team bracket is revealed on Selection Sunday "presents an extraordinary logistical challenge" for the association and its media partners. But with concern over the spread of the virus and the possible exposure at large events, the NCAA was reportedly left with very few options.
"This decision is in the best interest of public health, including that of coaches, administrators, fans and, most importantly, our student-athletes," Emmert said. "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."
In 2018, around 650,000 people paid to attend the NCAA's tournament games.