There will be no March Madness in 2020.
The NCAA announced Thursday that it has canceled its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments amid the growing coronavirus outbreak. It marks the first time — since the men’s tournament was introduced in 1939 and the women’s in 1982 — that champions in the sport of college basketball will not be crowned.
All other remaining winter and spring NCAA championships have also been canceled.
“Today, NCAA President Mark Emmert and the Board of Governors canceled the Division I men’s and women’s 2020 basketball tournaments, as well as all remaining winter and spring NCAA championships,” the governing body said in a statement. “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.”
NCAA president Mark Emmert said Wednesday afternoon the NCAA would proceed with its championships without fans in the stands, allowing only essential staff and limited family to attend the games as a precaution against the spread of COVID-19. But things changed on Thursday and the decision to cancel the tournament came after conferences across the country announced that they were canceling their postseason tournaments and prominent schools like Duke decided to suspend athletic competition indefinitely.
The NCAA established a COVID-19 advisory panel earlier this month. It recommended that sporting events should not be open to the public and that limiting attendees of NCAA tournament games to only essential staff and family would protect players, employees and fans.
However, when the NBA opted to indefinitely suspend its season on Wednesday night after one of its players — reportedly Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert — tested positive for COVID-19, the possibility of mass cancellations in the sport became more realistic. Thursday, a second Utah Jazz player, guard Donovan Mitchell, tested positive for the virus.
MLS followed suit Thursday with a suspension of its season, while MLB is postponing the start of its season by at least two weeks.
The decision to cancel the tournament brings with it significant financial hits for the NCAA and the various cities slated to host games. On the NCAA end, the governing body estimated in its 2018-19 financial statements that it would receive $827 million from television broadcast revenue and licensing rights from CBS.
The men’s tournament was set to begin with the First Four in Dayton, Ohio, on March 17 and 18 before first-round games opened up across the country on March 19.
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