The NCAA announced Wednesday afternoon that fans will not be able to attend the annual NCAA Tournament. The move is in response to fears of spreading the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19. The news comes just hours after the cancelation of the College Basketball Invitational.
The news comes amid a national movement toward COVID-19 prevention practices. Sporting events have been a popular target in combating the virus. The NCAA Tournament is one of many events canceled or altered in previous days. Other such occurrences include the canceling of the CBI and the Ivy League tournaments.
— NCAA (@NCAA) March 11, 2020
According to NCAA president Mark Emmert, only essential staff and limited family can attend the tournament. The official statement makes no mention of media members.
This is an unprecedented move by the NCAA and will undoubtedly have negative effects on the teams and local economies of host sites while student-athletes play in virtually empty buildings throughout one of the most popular sporting events in the world.
The NCAA Tournament is one of the most exciting and unpredictable events in all of sports. However, it could all change this season.
Human lives and well-being are more important than sports. Full stop. Though that statement is undeniably true, it is important to look deeper into the impact the new rules will have on the event itself.
The move will have a seriously negative impact on the student-athletes. Playing in one of the most important games of their lifetimes, a lack of noise is more distracting than a rowdy crowd could ever be. Part of what makes college basketball so unique is the atmosphere, and the coronavirus has robbed the tournament of that aspect.
Secondly, the local economies will take a huge blow compared to the boom they were expecting. When all the flights, hotels, travel costs, restaurant and bar tabs, and any other expenses are factored in, cities will lose vast amounts of money. Not to mention the fans who may have already bought tickets or booked hotel rooms; will they be compensated?
There are, however, two true winners here.
First, as much as it may seem like they’re always in the wrong, is the NCAA. However dreadful the news of the decision may have been, it seems to be the right call in a time of panic and emergency in the United States. Any precautions that can be taken to prevent the further spread of the virus — which will ultimately save human lives — should absolutely be taken. It may hurt morale and the NCAA’s pocketbooks, but it remains the right call.
The one true victor of the situation, however, is network television.
Ratings for the NCAA Tournament will likely be at an all-time high. Fans of teams will literally have no choice but to watch the games on television as opposed to going to the arena. The stations that carry these games will see an extreme bump in their advertising revenue as a direct result. Local bars and restaurants with televisions will also benefit as groups go out to watch the tournament together.
No one wanted to see the NCAA Tournament canceled, but a compromise had to be made. No one wants an NCAA Tournament with no fans, but even fewer want a loved one to die because they went to a ballgame.
The coronavirus is a serious issue that has to be combatted through tough calls like this one. Though they may be a major inconvenience, these moves could save lives. And above all, that matters more than a ball going into a hoop ever could.
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