Dayton fans cheer during a game against East Tennessee State on Saturday, Dec. 10, 2016, at UD Arena. David Jablonski/Staff
Photo: Staff Writer
Photo: Staff Writer

NCAA won’t allow fans at tournament games

The NCAA announced today that its Division I basketball tournament games will be played without fans in attendance because of concerns about the spread of coronavirus.

NCAA President Mark Emmert issued a statement that said games would be played with only essential staff and limited family in attendance.

“The NCAA COVID-19 Advisory Panel recognizes the fluidity of COVID-19 and its impact on hosting events in a public space,” reads a statement from the organization. “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.”

NCAA president Mark Emmert subsequently confirmed the organization’s upcoming championship events, including the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, will take place with only essential staff and limited family. 

“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,” Emmert said in a statement. “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.”

The announcement came late Wednesday, not long after Ohio Governor Mike DeWine told reporters in Columbus he will be issuing an order prohibiting large gatherings in the state. 

>>RELATED: Coronavirus concerns causing changes across sports spectrum

That would impact the NCAA men’s basketball tournament in Ohio in two ways as the First Four is set to take place in Dayton next Tuesday and Wednesday and Cleveland is a site of first and second round games March 20 and 22. 

It also means that University of Dayton fans, celebrating the team’s historic season, will be unable to watch the games in person.

The OHSAA already announced a policy limiting who may attend boys and girls basketball tournament games as well as the state wrestling and ice hockey tournaments. 

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