NCAA preparing for potential coronavirus impact on March Madness
The director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases made headlines this week describing the spreading coronavirus in the US as a matter of “when not if.” Internationally, the spread of coronavirus has already raised the possibility of this summer’s Tokyo Olympics being canceled. For American sports fans, the first major event that could face coronavirus concerns may be “March Madness,” the NCAA men’s and women’s college basketball championship tournaments.
“NCAA staff continues to prepare for March Madness but we are keenly aware of coronavirus and will continue to monitor in coordination with state/local health authorities and the CDC,” NCAA associate director of communications Chris Radford told Paul Myerberg of USA TODAY on Wednesday.
Myerberg further reports that the NCAA has released two memos to athletics directors, health care administrators, conference commissioners and head athletic trainers and team physicians of member schools, including links to CDC resources regarding travel, coronavirus symptoms and topics to discuss with campus leadership.
“Regarding championship play for the winter and spring seasons, the NCAA is taking concerted steps to maintain the first-rate delivery of NCAA championship experiences for participating student-athletes, team personnel and fans,” read the second of the two memos, which was sent to member schools on Feb. 13.
“Championships staff members will implement their health and safety checklist in conjunction with host schools and conferences and their community partners and will monitor COVID-19 developments through the NCAA Sport Science Institute. As they would with any public health crisis, championships staff will add appropriate safeguards in coordination with campus and local health response teams to address COVID-19 concerns.”
The SEC men’s basketball tournament is set for March 11-15 at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee. NCAA tournament first-round games (thinning the field from 68 to 64) are set for March 17.