By Sally Fahey
March Madness is about to confront Coronavirus Madness.
NCAA executives are considering whether to reduce the number of venues at which games are played during the NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments that begin in less than two weeks.
A narrowed list of playing sites is one option being studied for the tournaments, which are among the marquee events in American sports and are scheduled in dozens of cities in the coming weeks. Executives and medical experts are also considering other possibilities, including holding games without spectators and proceeding normally but with enhanced efforts to promote public health, such as hand sanitizer stations.
“We’re playing out every possible scenario, ranging from ‘OK, we’re full-go’ to modified-go to ‘Are we playing a game and we’re certain that everyone in the arena is clean and there won’t be any public?’” Brian Hainline, the NCAA’s chief medical officer, told the New York Times.
He said it was “hard to imagine” the tournaments being canceled.
As recently as Friday, Hainline said, officials talked about whether they could lower the number of tournament sites during what is known as March Madness. The men’s tournament is expected to be played in 14 cities, including Atlanta, the site of the national championship game that is scheduled for April 6. The women’s tournament, slated to conclude in New Orleans, is planned for even more cities.