NCAA

NCAA announces fans will not be permitted in NCAA Tournament due to coronavirus concerns

NCAA announces fans will not be permitted in NCAA Tournament due to coronavirus concerns

INDIANAPOLIS  -- The buzzer-beaters, upsets and all the other shining moments of this year’s NCAA tournaments will be played in mostly empty arenas.

Trying to avoid spreading the new coronavirus that has become a global pandemic, the NCAA decided the men’s and women’s tournament games will be off-limits to the general public.

NCAA President Mark Emmert said Wednesday that he made the decision to conduct both tournaments, which begin next week, with only essential staff and limited family in attendance. The decision comes after the NCAA's COVID-19 advisory panel of medical experts recommended against playing sporting events open to the general public.

Emmert told The Associated Press that canceling the tournament was considered.

“The decision was based on a combination of the information provided by national and state officials, by the advisory team that we put together of medical experts from across the country, and looking at what was going to be in the best interest of our student-athletes, of course," Emmert told the AP in an phone interview. “But also the public health implications of all of this. We recognize our tournaments bring people from all around the country together. They're not just regional events. They're big national events. It's a very, very hard decision for all the obvious reasons."

Emmert said the NCAA wants to move the men's Final Four on April 4 and 6 from Atlanta's Mercedes-Benz Stadium to a smaller arena in the area. The NCAA also will consider using smaller venues for second-week regional sites currently set to be played at the Toyota Center in Houston, Madison Square Garden in New York, Staples Center in Los Angeles and Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

“We have to determine the availability of the sites, obviously, but it doesn't make good sense to have a football stadium be empty,” Emmert said.

All sites for next week's men's games will remain the same unless conditions in those areas force relocation, he said.

Plans for refunding tickets purchased in advance were being worked out.

First- and second-round sites for the women's tournament will become official next week. Those games are usually played at or near the campuses of the highly seeded teams.

“It's really sad. Obviously it's disappointing for all our fans,” said Louisville women's coach Jeff Walz, whose team is ranked No. 6 in the latest AP poll. “At the same time I completely understand for the health and safety of the fans and student-athletes and everyone involved.”

Walz said the university already had sold more than 4,000 tickets for the first- and second-round sessions.

The decision applies to more than just men's and women's basketball. All NCAA-sponsored championships including hockey’s Frozen Four will be affected.

But the men's basketball tournament is the crown jewel, one of the most popular events on the American sports calendar. March Madness draws hundreds of thousands of fans to arenas from coast to coast. The men's tournament generated more than $900 million in revenue last year for the NCAA and its members, though the majority of that was from a media rights deal with CBS and Turner that pays about $800 billion per year.

Emmert said CBS and Turner plan to broadcast the games us usual. Other media members will be allowed into the arenas to cover the games, but how many is still being determined, he said.

Emmert said a protocol for the medical screening of people entering the arenas is still being worked out, too, along with what constitutes essential staff (bands? cheerleaders?) and how to define family members.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover from the virus.

Around the country, many colleges and universities in recent days have been shifting to virtual classes and telling students to extend their spring breaks, encouraging them to stay away from campus.

“A number of schools, including schools that their president are on our board, have indeed closed down campuses and made other accommodations and so it was part of the discussions,” Emmert said. “And people recognizing they were making those decisions for good reasons, and doesn’t that logic continue over to athletic competitions?”

The 68-team field for the men's basketball tournament is scheduled to be announced Sunday and the 64-team women's tournament field is to be unveiled Monday. Games begin Tuesday and Wednesday on the men's side in Dayton, Ohio, where earlier in the day the governor said he would issue an order to restrict spectator access to indoor sporting events.

The Mid-American Conference on Tuesday announced it was closing its men's and women's basketball tournament games at Cleveland’s Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, home of the NBA's Cleveland Cavaliers and scheduled site of the men's NCAA games, to the general public. The women's tournament started Wednesday.

The Big West Conference announced a similar move, not allowing the general public into its basketball tournament games to be played this week at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California.

Conference basketball tournaments are in full swing across the country this week.

Emmert said it was up to conference officials and their members to decide how they will proceed with their tournaments for the rest of the week.

Following the NCAA's lead, the Big Ten and Big 12 announced they not allow the general public to attend their men's basketball tournaments for the rest of the week. Both started Wednesday with fans in attendance. The Big Ten is playing at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis and when an announcement was made about limiting fan access going forward, fans booed.

The Big 12 men are playing at the Sprint Center in downtown Kansas City, Missouri.

Commissioner Bob Bowlsby said teams will be allowed 125 tickets on a game-by-game basis beginning with Thursday's quarterfinals. The arena will be cleared after each game. The tickets will go to guests of student-athletes and staff members but pep bands, cheerleaders and dance teams will not be allowed. The policy also will be in place for the women's Big 12 Tournament, which begins Thursday night a few blocks away.

"One of the things we've heard is that it's going to get much, much worse," Bowlsby said. “The advice is don't gather in large crowds.”

The Atlantic Coast Conference was in Day 2 of its five-day men's tournament in Greensboro, North Carolina, and the Pac-12 played the first game of its tournament in Las Vegas on Wednesday. The Big East began play Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden in New York.

There were no immediate plans to limit access to those tournaments.

March Madness hits another level next week with the start of the NCAA Tournament to crown a national champion.

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 women's tournament first- and second-round games begin March 21 and will be played at 16 sites. The second-week 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.

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Navy-Notre Dame to move 2020 matchup from Ireland

Navy-Notre Dame to move 2020 matchup from Ireland

Navy and Notre Dame will no longer hold the 94th edition of their rivalry in Dublin, Ireland this year. 

Navy football announced the location change on Tuesday. The game will ideally be played at the Midshipmen's home stadium, the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, Md, the release stated.  

Moving the game is due to concerns surrounding travel during the coronavirus pandemic. The Naval Academy, Notre Dame and the Irish government determined postponing their game at Aviva Stadium would be the best interests of all parties. 

The historic game will still be played this year, likely on Labor Day weekend and broadcast on ESPN or ABC. 

"We are obviously disappointed not to be traveling to Ireland this August," Naval Academy Director of Athletics Chet Gladchuk said.  "But, as expected, our priority must be ensuring the health and safety of all involved.  I am expecting that we will still be able to play Notre Dame as our season opener, but there is still much to be determined by health officials and those that govern college football at large.  Once we have a definitive plan in place, we will announce the specifics pertaining to the game." 

"I am extremely grateful to all that were involved in the planning of our game in Aviva Stadium, especially John Anthony and Padraic O'Kane who created what would have been another extraordinary event in Dublin.  I realize many are disappointed and were looking forward to the spectacle of this event and a visit to the Emerald Isle, but I do know there is a complete understanding of why it's in our best interests to make every effort to relocate the game," he added.

This was set to be the third time that the longest continuous intersectional rivalry was to play in Ireland. Notre Dame won both previous contests in 1996 and 2012, although the Fighting Irish vacated their 2012 victory. The two programs look to return to Ireland in the coming years.

Notre Dame has won the rivalry game each of the past three seasons. The Fighting Irish hold a 77–13–1 lead in the all-time series.

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Maryland among top five for Utah transfer Both Gach, if he withdraws from NBA Draft

Maryland among top five for Utah transfer Both Gach, if he withdraws from NBA Draft

Maryland basketball is among Utah transfer Both Gach's final five schools, he announced via Twitter on Tuesday.

Creighton, Iowa State, Auburn and Minnesota are the other four teams on his list. Gach, who entered his name into the transfer portal in May after his sophomore season at Utah, averaged 10.7 points and 3.6 rebounds during the 2019-20 season. 

Should Gach choose Maryland, the 6-foot-7 guard could immediately help a Terps roster that has lost a majority of its primary ball handlers and missed out on several transfers and recruits. Additionally, his size would allow him to potentially play the three or four as well, that is if he is granted immediate eligibility. 

However, the Terps aren't just competing with four other college programs for Gach, but the NBA as well. Gach had entered his name into the NBA Draft in early April. Typically by this time, players would either withdraw and maintain eligibility or continue on to the pros. Due to the coronavirus pandemic pausing the NBA season, things are a little different for 2020. The deadline for players to withdraw is undetermined at this time and will likely be influenced by the league's date of resumption.

Until that happens, it could be a waiting game between Gach, the Terps and other teams involved in his final decision.

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