NCAA 'very confident' tournament can move forward after VCU's COVID-19 outbreak

The NCAA quickly defended the COVID-19 safety precautions at the NCAA tournament in the aftermath of VCU's elimination Saturday due to an outbreak among the team.

VCU forfeited its first-round matchup against Oregon hours before its scheduled tipoff Saturday after the team announced that it "received multiple positive tests" in the last 48 hours. The Ducks will advance to the second round.

The tournament that's normally played in multiple locations across the country is being held entirely in Indianapolis to reduce the risks associated with traveling amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Last year's tournament was canceled entirely at the onset of the pandemic.

'Barnhart: We feel very confident'

Kentucky athletic director and NCAA tournament committee chairman Mitch Barnhart expressed confidence that the games will go on shortly after news broke of VCU's outbreak.

"We feel very confident we can move forward if everyone continues to take care of the protocols,” Barnhart told Turner Sports on Saturday evening.

Kentucky's Director of Athletics Mitch Barnhart speaks to reporters during the team's annual NCAA college football media day at Commonwealth Stadium in Lexington, Ky., Friday, Aug. 7, 2015. (AP Photo/ David Stephenson)
Mitch Barnhart defended the tournament's COVID-19 safety and implored teams to take responsibility for their safety. (AP Photo/ David Stephenson)

Barnhart places impetus on tourney participants

Barnhart acknowledged that the tournament's safety protocols aren't infallible but expressed confidence in its "controlled environment."

"Our first concern is for the health and safety for our tournament," Barnhart said. "We’ve created a controlled environment which we think is working effectively well. Although obviously not perfect.

"There’s gonna be positives from time to time. Unfortunately there were multiple positives very recently, and it caused us to get to this spot."

He then placed the responsibility of ensuring the tournament's safety on its participants.

“I think we’ve created an environment if everybody continues to mask up, to socially distance, takes really great precautions with their team meals, continues to travel the right ways, follows the protocols on their benches during timeouts, we can continue forward," Barnhart said.

The opening two rounds of the NCAA tournament are scheduled to continue through Monday. The Sweet 16 is scheduled to tipoff next Saturday.

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