The NCAA has canceled its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, citing concern over the coronavirus pandemic, which has hit sporting events worldwide.
The conference canceled championships in all spring sports, including hockey, baseball, and lacrosse.
NCAA said in a statement.
“This decision is based on the evolving COVID-19 public health threat, our ability to ensure the events do not contribute to the 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 cancellation came just one day after the NCAA initially reported that it intended to hold its Division I tournaments and other championship events without spectators, setting off one of the greatest disruptions in college sports history.
At Madison Square Garden in New York, the Big East game between Creighton and St. John’s did start, but at halftime, the conference called off the game and all the rest, making it the last Division I basketball game played this season.
Smaller conferences, including the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, and SEC, followed suit, canceling their tournaments. And within a few hours, 58 men’s games scheduled in 16 conferences had been canceled.
Some conferences canceled all of their athletic activities for at least a few weeks (the Southeastern Conference) or indefinitely (the Atlantic Coast Conference).
The decision to cancel baseball and softball drew a sharp response from SEC commissioner Greg Sankey.
On The Paul Finebaum Show, Sankey said:
“Surprised that we’ve decided now in mid-March not to play baseball or softball national championship events [scheduled for June]. So I look forward to learning what informed that decision.”
“I know what’s informed our decisions over the last day and a half or so. Still, the news from the NCAA we were waiting on —on the basketball tournaments and some of the championships happening now — but obviously, there was the decision to go further.”
The NCAA men’s basketball tournament has been played every year since 1939, when Oregon won the championship in Evanston, Illinois. Over the years, it has grown both in size and stature.
The three-week tournament generates around one billion dollars in revenue every year for the NCAA and its hundreds of member universities and colleges.
Most of the earnings come from a television contract with CBS and Turner that pays the NCAA almost $800 million annually.
The tournament is now one of the biggest events in American sports, a basketball marathon of buzzer-beaters—upsets and thrills involving 68 teams. It was set to kicks off March 17 and March 18 with play-in games in Dayton, OH, the first of 13 cities hosting games this year.