NEW YORK, USA – The National Collegiate Athletic Association canceled the US national men’s basketball tournament on Thursday, March 12, shutting down “March Madness” for devoted basketball fans across the United States.
NCAA president Mark Emmert announced that the organization’s board of governors had canceled the men’s and women’s national tournaments as well as all remaining winter and spring NCAA national championship events.
“This decision is based on the evolving COVID-19 public health threat, our ability to ensure the events do not contribute to spread of the pandemic, and the impracticality of hosting such events at any time during this academic year given ongoing decisions by other entities,” the NCAA said in a statement.
Wiping out the NCAA tournament will remove a major viewing event from the American sports landscape and take millions of dollars from cities where games were to be staged and visitors would flock to hotels, bars and restaurants.
Millions of tournament brackets are filled out by basketball fans across the nation, from office pools to internet gaming, but such amusements will not be coming this month.
The decision by the NCAA came hours after major US college basketball conference tournaments shut down nationwide, following the lead of the NBA, which halted its season indefinitely on Wednesday night after a player tested positive for the coronavirus.
The Big Ten, Big East, Atlantic Coast, Big 12, Southeastern and Pacific 12 conferences all stopped their events, ending championship dreams that would typically come once in a lifetime.
The 68-team NCAA men’s tournament was to have opened Tuesday at Dayton, Ohio with the “First Four” play-in games to establish a 64-team bracket.
The games would have been played without spectators after Ohio governor Mike DeWine banned mass gatherings in a bid to slow the spread of coronavirus that could potentially overwhelm health care systems.
The conference event qualifiers with up to 4 games a day usually build excitement for the national showdown.
“This was a precautionary decision which should be made,” University of Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said in Nashville, where the Southeastern Conference event was to be played.
“I’m just happy because I do know the right decision was made for those guys. They don’t have a voice in it. They had the right decision made for them.”
Barnes feared players could transmit the virus through contact common in basketball and not playing games was the correct move by the SEC.
“They are going out there, the sweat, and you don’t know,” he said. “If we had gone out there and played today we would have hoped we would be lucky. Now we know. This at this point in time was the right decision.” – Rappler.com