Fans banned from March Madness events nationwide amid coronavirus fears

Posted at 4:25 PM, Mar 11, 2020

The NCAA announced on Wednesday that the upcoming men's and women's basketball tournaments will be played without spectators.

Earlier on Wednesday, the NCAA's panel on the coronavirus recommended that all athletic competitions be played without spectators due to coronavirus fears.

NCAA President Mark Emmert issued the following statement:

"The NCAA continues to assess the impact of COVID-19 in consultation with public health officials and our COVID-19 advisory panel . 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. 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. We recognize the opportunity to compete in an 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."

Here is a statement released earlier highlighting the NCAA's COVID-19 Advisory panel's recommendation:

"The NCAA COVID-19 Advisory Panel recognizes the fluidity of COVID-19 and its impact on hosting events in a public space. COVID-19 is spreading rapidly in the United States, and behavioral risk mitigation strategies are the best option for slowing the spread of this disease. This is especially important because mildly symptomatic individuals can transmit COVID-19. Given these considerations, coupled with a more unfavorable outcome of COVID-19 in older adults – especially those with underlying chronic medical conditions – we recommend against sporting events open to the public. We do believe sport events can take place with only essential personnel and limited family attendance, and this protects our players, employees, and fans."

Earlier on Wednesday, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced that the state will ban large gatherings in the coming days. Ohio is set to host both the First Four round in Dayton as well as first- and second-round games in Cleveland.

In 2019, the NCAA's Division I Men's Basketball Tournament drew 688,753, averaging 19,132 fans over 36 sessions in 14 locations.

Justin Boggs is a writer for the E.W. Scripps National Desk. Follow him on Twitter @jjboggs or on Facebook .