Coronavirus alters plans for NCAA, IU athletics

If the Indiana men’s basketball team qualifies for its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2016, the Hoosiers won’t have fans in the stands cheering them on this postseason.

The IU women’s basketball team is hoping to earn a top-four seed and host the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament, but if so Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall will be mostly empty.

NCAA President Mark Emmert issued a statement Wednesday afternoon announcing the decision to proceed with the Division I men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, but only with “essential staff and limited family attendance” as a result of the novel coronavirus outbreak.

Emmert went on to say, “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.”

The NCAA COVID-19 Advisory Panel had minutes before announced its recommendation against sporting events being open to the public.

The NCAA’s decision was announced less than 90 minutes after the Big Ten Conference issued a statement of its own saying it would proceed with the Big Ten Tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis as scheduled, only with no locker room availability for the media postgame. The league later reversed course and announced that the Big Ten Tournament would proceed without fans starting on Thursday. That meant Indiana’s opening game against Nebraska on Wednesday night was the last played before the public. Other conferences did likewise, such as the ACC, Big East, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC.

The Big Ten’s statement also included ramifications for other sports, such as baseball and softball.

“Additionally, all further Big Ten Conference winter and spring sport competitions, including championship/tournament events, will also be limited to student-athletes, coaches, event staff, essential team and Conference staff, TV network partners, credentialed media, and immediate family members of the participating teams,” the Big Ten said.

At nearly the same time as the NCAA Tournament decision, Indiana University announced that the water polo and men’s golf teams would not compete in Los Angeles and Seattle, respectively, later in the month of March.

This was on the advice of the IU Athletics Medical Advisory Board formed earlier this week and consisting of Dr. Andy Hipskind, IU Athletics Chief Medical Officer; Dr. Larry Rink, IU Team Physician; and Dr. Tom Hrismalos, a specialist in infectious disease.

IU’s statement said, in part, “the advisory group identified these trips as concerning given that Los Angeles and Seattle are experiencing higher cluster outbreaks of the coronavirus and recommended that IU not participate given that the travel would be by commercial flight and the competition would be held by a host institution and not part of a conference or NCAA monitored event.”

This comes on the heels of the university announcing Tuesday that there would be a two-week suspension of face-to-face learning classes at the conclusion of spring break, which begins at the conclusion of classes on Friday.


  1. I can’t fault what some may view as over-reaction when so little is actually known about the virus at this point.
    Was really looking forward to following the IU women, wherever they go.
    Just sad for the players and fans.
    Can’t imagine playing an NCAA tournament game in front of an empty gym or practice court.

    1. NHIV,
      I agree it really is very sad, but if it is too dangerous for individuals to gather at sporting events when so small a percentage of nation’s population actually attends, then what shall they do if it were an event affecting a much larger percentage of the population? While large arenas are indeed a problem, imagine the danger of large numbers of people passing through much smaller confines. Say polling stations in November? If this virus is indeed so dangerous, then obviously we cannot have such a large percentage of the population gathering in so many locations across the country. I wonder if they have considered cancelling the elections this year due to the terrible risks to the population?

      1. “cancelling election due to terrible risks to the population”. I have a nice response but probably too political

        1. Ron,
          I am assuming you understand the extreme sarcasm at play. If this is such a dire emergency that we must cancel all these events involving thousands of people, then should we not cancel a singular event involving upwards of 100 million?

  2. It will be a change but the TV coverage is pretty comprehensive. Feel sorry for the cities awarded the games. Big loss of $$’s..

  3. Better have players and families sign plenty of releases. Hard to imagine protecting fans but not protecting teams who will jump from airport to airport and increase their own risks to exposure.

    Will universities/teams allow players the option to stay home if they so choose?

    I’ve got a feeling this could even change in four days….into complete cancellation.

  4. Team travel – tourney teams identified Sunday should be assigned to the nearest venue. More teams east of the Mississippi River – add another site. With no fan $$ coming in, would not have a negative financial impact. ?

  5. Can one begin to imagine the millions upon millions that will be lost in online gambling revenue over the coming months? I never was a proponent of it anyway, but there is the biggest financial hit far beyond anything discussed thus far.

  6. We probably just watched our last college basketball game. Hard to see the NCAA’s playing when the NBA just closed up shop.

    AND WHAT THE HECK WAS HOIBERG DOING ON THE COURT??? He was obviously super sick! I just don’t get it.

  7. I think you’re right, DoubleDown. Doubt the BigTen tournament continues.

    Playing sports during a pandemic seems like a bad plan.

  8. Hoiberg was just taken to the hospital. Now their entire team is quarantined.

    Hoiberg could have gotten hundreds, maybe thousands of people sick tonight.

    What Nebraska did tonight was insanely reckless and thoughtless.

    1. Influenza A is not the common cold, despite Nebraska’s press release. It is a highly contagious form of the flu, and it is still very foolish for Hoiberg to potentially pass it on to his staff and team. His mentality is why this coronavirus situation is so dangerous.

      1. Thanks Jeremy.
        Nebraska’s press release was absolutely ridiculous, which makes perfect sense seeing how Hoiberg handled the situation.

  9. I find it insane that someone with flu symptoms would still choose to show up to a stadium of thousands to coach his 7 win bottom feeder. He didn’t know he didn’t have it.

    I’m glad for him and his family and thousands of others who showed up to Banker’s Life tonight that it wasn’t The Big One.

  10. This is a great example of why it is important for us NOT to be gathering in groups. There is too little information about what is happening, too many people who have their own interpretations of what is going on, and making choices that I believe they think are in the right. No time for judgement. The risk of this getting out of hand and making this a terrible outcome is too great.

    As I typed the last sentence, a text came in saying, “B1G Tournament is cancelled.”

    This is the correct thing to do. The next two weeks are going to be huge for everyone in this country.

    Sending best wishes to each and every person here. Please take care of yourselves. Eat well, get rest and you know the drill. Me, I’m going to go downtown and lick the streets of San Francisco for about an hour…

  11. Those who nobody gives a crap about (who are not nonessential emergency or medical professionals) who must still gather in groups or confined areas with multiple potential carriers of corona:

    All postal workers
    All warehouse workers
    All package delivery distribution centers(FedEx, UPS, etc)
    All Walmart distribution centers
    All Cosco distribution centers
    All McDonald’s, Burger King, Arby’s, Taco Bell, Popeye’s, and all other fast-food workers.
    All grocery store personnel/stockers/ warehouse workers
    All major restaurant chefs, table staff, busboys, waiters, waitresses, etc, etc.

    Add millions of more who will still be forced to work in close quarters and make no headlines.

    Hundreds of thousands primarily working at barely sustainable wages (some have two or three jobs), insufficient healthcare and zero opportunity to work from home ….and sports and basketball games is at the top of our list.

    And this fall, “millions” will go to election sites to spread a status quo (far more dangerous than corona).

  12. Yep, cancelling these sporting events was the right call. Hoiberg was really stupid for showing up at the game, regardless of what type of virus he had. When you’re sick, you don’t go to work where you might infect other people.

    Be safe and well folks. I pray that none of you or your loved ones are touched by this nasty little virus.

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