The NCAA announced Thursday it will cancel its March Madness basketball tournaments over growing concerns about the novel coronavirus pandemic.
“This decision is based on the evolving COVID-19 public health threat, our ability to ensure the events do not contribute to spread of the pandemic, and the impracticality of hosting such events at any time during this academic year given ongoing decisions by other entities,” the NCAA said in a statement Thursday.
The men’s tournament was set to begin on Tuesday, March 17, while the women’s tournament was scheduled to start Friday, March 20.
The news comes after the NBA announced Wednesday evening it was suspending its season “until further notice” after a player on the Utah Jazz tested positive for the coronavirus.
Earlier this week, NCAA President Mark Emmert said the college games would go on as planned but with spectators limited to some family members and staffers.
“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,” he said Wednesday. “This decision is in the best interest of public health, including that of coaches, administrators, fans and, most importantly, our student-athletes.”
Prior to canceling, the college sports organization also considered moving some of the games to smaller arenas.
Last year’s NCAA Men’s Division I Tournament saw 19.6 million fans tuning in to the championship game between the University of Virginia and Texas Tech, and tens of thousands of people attended the games in person. Last year’s tournament reportedly generated roughly $933 million in revenue for the NCAA from ticket sales, advertisements and media rights.
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