The NCAA is taking precautions as the threat of the coronavirus could present some radical changes to how March Madness is viewed.
The threat of the coronavirus could lead to March Madness being played in front of empty stadiums. This development comes from Ross Dellenger of Sports Illustrated who reported the NCAA could take extreme precautions to prevent the spread of the virus.
"“In the wake of the emerging coronavirus pandemic, the NCAA and its colleges should take precautions to protect college athletes. They should also make public which actions will be taken and when. Precautions should include all auxiliary events that put players in contact with crowds such as meet and greets and press events,” adding that “there should be a serious discussion about holding competitions without an audience present.”"
March Madness begins on Tuesday, March 17 with the first of two play-in games, followed by 16 games on Thursday and another 16 on Friday. With games spread across the country and media traveling in addition to the players, coaches, fans and families, a number of people could be affected by this safety measure.
Many businesses are already enacting plans to take caution from limiting domestic and/or international travel as well as limiting office exposure. Twitter announced they are keeping their employees and partners safe from the coronavirus by making them work from home. Further, as the coronavirus spreads, the CDC recommends anyone who is sick to stay home.
Should March Madness move forward with these precautionary measures, it would represent a stark contrast to what makes the NCAA Tournament appealing from a viewer’s perspective. The crowds, the student sections, the bands, the cheerleaders, all of it go into the stadium atmosphere. It would be different, but there is no such thing as showing an abundance of caution.
The NCAA established a COVID-19 advisory panel to guide its response to the spread of the coronavirus that will be led by NCAA Chief Medical Officer Dr. Brian Hainline. Six other doctors and four college athlete liaisons will also be a part of the advisory panel.
“The NCAA is committed to conducting its championships and events in a safe and responsible manner,” said Donald Remy, NCAA chief operating officer in a release from the NCAA. “Today we are planning to conduct our championships as planned, however, we are evaluating the COVID-19 situation daily and will make decisions accordingly.
"“We are actively monitoring COVID-19 in the United States and will make recommendations on competition based on the evolving medical protocols established by the CDC, NIH and state and local authorities. We are in daily contact with the CDC and are advising leadership on the Association’s response to this outbreak.”"
The novel coronavirus and COVID-19, the disease it causes, first emerged in Wuhan, China in December 2019. The virus spreads similarly to influenza, with sneezing and coughing as the primary vectors of infection. To date, more than 90,000 cases have been confirmed in more than 70 countries worldwide, including the United States. The World Health Organization declared it a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on Jan. 30 and countries have implemented curfews, travel bans and mandatory quarantines to help prevent its spread.
For more information about COVID-19, visit the CDC’s website or the website for your state’s Department of Health.
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