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March Sadness: NCAA Tournament to ban fans due to coronavirus

The Virginia Cavaliers celebrate their teams 85-77 win over the Texas Tech Red Raiders to win the the 2019 NCAA men's Final Four National Championship game at U.S. Bank Stadium on April 08, 2019 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

The NCAA announced on Wednesday that the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments would continue but without fans as authorities work to prevent the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).

The announcement was made via a statement from NCAA president Mark Emmert.

“The NCAA COVID-19 Advisory Panel recognizes the fluidity of COVID-19 and its impact on hosting events in a public space,” Emmert said in the statement. “COVID-19 is spreading rapidly 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 fans.”

The NCAA also announced that the NIT Tournament, which invites non-NCAA Tournament teams, will also go through with games but without fans. The lesser CBI announced it will cancel its tournament this year.

The NCAA men’s and women’s Division I basketball tournaments begin next week at sites across the country. The first four game of the men’s tournament are scheduled to be played in Dayton, Ohio, on Tuesday and Wednesday. First- and second-round games are scheduled to be played in Cleveland on March 20 and 22.

The 68-team men’s field is scheduled to be announced Sunday and the 64-team women’s tournament field was set to be unveiled Monday.

There are eight first- and second-round sites for the men’s tournament, scheduled to be played March 19-22. Locations include Cleveland; Spokane, Washington; Albany, New York; Sacramento, California; and Omaha, Nebraska. The four regional sites for the second weekend of the tournament are Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Houston and New York. The Final Four is scheduled to be held in at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, with the semifinals on April 4 and the championship game April 6.

The women’s tournament first- and second-round games begin March 21 and will be played at 16 sites, mostly on or close the campuses of the top seeded teams. The regionals will be played in Dallas, Greenville, South Carolina; Portland, Oregon; and Fort Wayne, Indiana. The Final Four will be held in New Orleans on April 3 and 5.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.


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