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NCAA 'March Madness’ Tournament to Take Place Without Live Audience

U.S. Coronavirus fears will alter the annual “March Madness" basketball tournament as the NCAA has decided to hold the popular college basketball event in virtually empty arenas.

NCAA president Mark Emmert said in a statement: “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 March 19-April 8 tournament, for which CBS and Turner Sports hold the television rights, is the highest-profile sporting event in the U.S. to be affected by the coronavirus outbreak -- which on Wednesday was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization -- but it’s not the only sport making alternative plans. Tomorrow night’s Golden State Warriors-Brooklyn Nets National Basketball Association game will be played without fans, according to reports. 

R. Thomas Umstead
R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.