In complicated matter, NCAA gets it right with coronavirus measures

Ryan Hannable
March 11, 2020 - 6:02 pm
NCAA Final Four

Shanna Lockwood/USA Today Sports

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While it’s hard to fathom, the NCAA actually deserves credit for being ahead of other major sports organizations like MLB, the NBA and the NHL when it comes to the coronavirus pandemic. 

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On Wednesday afternoon, NCAA president Mark Emmert announced all championships, including the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, will be held without fans in attendance.

"The NCAA continues to assess the impact of COVID-19 in consultation with public health officials and our COVID-19 advisory panel," the statement said. "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."

There’s no question this is not ideal for everyone involved — fans who don’t get to attend games, the workers at the venues who lose out on paychecks, the host cities that lose money due to the economic impact, and the teams who don’t get a “true” NCAA tournament experience -- but most importantly, the games will go on.

Unlike the Ivy League and several other conferences, these student-athletes will be able to compete in games, which in the NCAA tournament’s case, could be the highlight of many participants lives.

Canceling the tournament altogether was reportedly on the table, so credit everyone involved for not allowing that to happen. Imagine a March without March Madness — no buzzer-beaters, no 12 vs. 5 upsets, and no brackets being busted. It’s unfathomable.

But, with how serious the coronavirus has become, something had to be done and this is why the NCAA deserves credit for not only allowing the games to go on, but getting out ahead of it.

Why hasn’t the NBA issued a similar league-wide stance? Same for the NHL. Even MLB despite its season not starting for a few weeks.

Some cities, especially in California, have already issued no large-scale event bans, so the San Jose Sharks and Golden State Warriors will be forced to play games without fans. Shouldn’t the leagues themselves come down with statements on how they plan on proceeding? It’s been up to individual teams and venues, and that doesn’t seem fair to them.

It also doesn’t necessarily mean banning fans at every game, but at least have a league statement updating everyone on what the plans are. It seems unfair for players, fans, media, workers, etc. to be in limbo and not know what’s going on. 

Most governors have updated their states on how to proceed and President Trump is addressing the nation Tuesday night. Where’s Adam Silver, Gary Bettman and Rob Manfred?

So while “One Shining Moment” is now “One Silent Moment,” give the NCAA credit for being ahead of the curve and doing the best it can with a bad situation.

Related: NCAA Tournament will be played without fans in attendance