*This article has been updated to include new information regarding the SEC & NCAA Tournaments.
The NCAA has announced the cancellation of the men’s and women’s NCAA Tournaments.
— NCAA (@NCAA) March 12, 2020
It will be a surreal scene for the 2020 edition of March Madness as the entire men’s and women’s NCAA Tournaments will be played in empty arenas.
Due to concerns surrounding the spread of coronavirus across the country, NCAA President Mark Emmert has announced that only “essential staff and limited family” will be in attendance for the entirety of the two tournaments.
The decision was made based on recommendations from the NCAA’s COVID-19 Advisory Committee, and the tournament becomes the latest sporting event to be affected by the pandemic.
Emmert’s full statement can be read below:
“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.”
The SEC has since released a statement explaining that “all regular-season contests in all sports on SEC campuses and SEC Championship events will be conducted with similar attendance restrictions effective Thursday, March 12 through at least March 30 at which time the conference and its member universities will re-evaluate conditions.”
Starting Thursday, the SEC Tournament in Nashville will also be played without fans in attendance. Ole Miss was eliminated by UGA earlier tonight. Mississippi State will play on Friday as they try to secure a spot in the NCAA Tournament.
According to ESPN’s Charlie Creme, the Mississippi State women are currently projected as a 3-seed, which means they would host a first and second-round matchup. Any Bulldog fans who purchased tickets for the NCAA Tournament will have their purchase refunded within 30 days.