March Madness Will Be Played Without Fans Over Coronavirus: NCAA

March 11, 2020 Updated: March 11, 2020

The March Madness college basketball tournament will be held without fans due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) announced the upcoming men’s and women’s tournaments will be held with “only essential staff and limited family attendance,” NCAA president Mark Emmert stated Wednesday.

“The NCAA continues to assess the impact of COVID-19 in consultation with public health officials and our COVID-19 advisory panel,” Emmert said. “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.”

He added: “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. This decision is in the best interest of public health, including that of coaches, administrators, fans and, most importantly, our student-athletes.”

U.S. health officials have also recommended that people avoid large crowds.

“We would recommend that there not be large crowds,” Dr. Anthony Fauci of the U.S. National Institutes of Health said on Capitol Hill on Wednesday after he was asked about sporting events. “If that means not having any people in the audience … so be it. But as a public health official, anything that has large crowds is something that would give a risk to spread,” he added.

The Golden State Warriors announced that its upcoming game against the Brooklyn Nets will be played without fans in the stands after San Francisco Mayor London Breed banned public gatherings of 1,000 or more people.

Sporting events across Italy and in other countries have also been banned.