The NCAA men’s basketball tournament begins on Tuesday, March 17th. The women’s college basketball tournament begins on Friday, March 20th. And if the National College Players Association (NCPA) has its way there could be no fans in attendance at the games due to the worldwide coronavirus outbreak.
“In the wake of the emerging coronavirus pandemic, the NCAA and its colleges should take precautions to protect college athletes,” the NCPA wrote in a statement. “They should also make public which actions will be taken and when. Precautions should include cancelling all auxiliary events that put players in contact with crowds such as meet and greets and press events. Athletic programs should also take every possible measure to sanitize buses and airplanes used to transport players.
“In regard to the NCAA’s March Madness Tournament and other athletic events, there should be a serious discussion about holding competitions without an audience present.
“Google just cancelled a summit in California and Amazon is encouraging its employees to avoid all nonessential travel because of coronavirus concerns. The NCAA and its colleges must act now, there is no time to waste.”
NCAA spokesman Greg Johnson responded to the NCPA statement with one of his own, reports CNN, “NCAA staff continues to prepare for all NCAA winter and spring championships, but we are keenly aware of coronavirus and will continue to monitor in coordination with state/local health authorities and the CDC.
“The NCAA Sport Science Institute sent two memos recently to NCAA members directing schools and conference offices to Center for Disease Control and Prevention resources on the issue.”
The NCAA has sent at least two memos to college athletics directors, health care administrators, conference commissioners and head athletic trainers and team physicians, according to USA Today.
“The NCAA Sport Science Institute encourages athletics departments to carefully review these materials with applicable institutional health care providers and other relevant campus personnel and to implement, as necessary, appropriate risk-mitigating initiatives,” read the first memo.
The second memo sent to NCAA schools on Feb. 13. read, “Regarding championship play for the winter and spring seasons, the NCAA is taking concerted steps to maintain the first-rate delivery of NCAA championship experiences for participating student-athletes, team personnel and fans.
“Championships staff members will implement their health and safety checklist in conjunction with host schools and conferences and their community partners and will monitor COVID-19 developments through the NCAA Sport Science Institute. As they would with any public health crisis, championships staff will add appropriate safeguards in coordination with campus and local health response teams to address COVID-19 concerns.”
It added that NCAA schools “have the primary responsibility for ensuring that actionable plans are in place to guide local response to a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 among school personnel or a related exposure incident at an on-campus event.”
Nancy Messonnier, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, stated last week, “Disruption to everyday life may be severe.”
Holding March Madness without fans at the games would certainly qualify as “severe.”