In a statement released on Wednesday afternoon, less than eight days prior to the beginning of March Madness’ Round of 64, NCAA President Mark Emmert said that both the men’s and women’s tournaments will be played without spectators. The decision was made after consulting with experts on the risk of spreading COVID-19 in a large group setting.
The games will be played with only essential staff and family members in the building, according to Emmert.
“While I understand how disappointing this is for fans of our sports, my decision is based on the current understanding of how COVID-19 is progressing in the United States,” Emmert said. “The decision is in the best interest of the public health, including that of coaches, administrators, fans and, most importantly, our student-athletes. We recognize the opportunity to compete in the NCAA national championship is an experience of a lifetime for the students and their families. Today, we will move forward and conduct championships consistent with the current information and will continue to monitor and make adjustments as needed.”
Despite March Madness taking precautions, the Big East Tournament, beginning tonight and ending with the championship game on March 14, will continue with fans in attendance. Commissioner Val Ackerman said that the conference spoke with New York City officials and received no recommendation to cancel or limit attendance.
Moving ahead, Seton Hall will have to prepare for life in a favorable home draw, perhaps in Albany, New York, for the first weekend, without fans.
Kevin Kopf can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find him on Twitter @KevinKopfHWH.