By Melody Miller
The NCAA will relocate all 13 of its preliminary round sites for the 2021 NCAA Tournament, with their sights set on moving the NCAA Tournament to a single host city.
The Wells Fargo Center in South Philly was not scheduled to host any 2021 tourney games, but is slated to host the East Region finals in 2022.
“In recent weeks, the Division I Men’s Basketball Committee has engaged in a thorough contingency planning process to determine the most effective way to conduct a safe and healthy March Madness for all participants for the 2021 championship,” NCAA spokesman David Worlock said today.
“Through these discussions, it became apparent to the committee that conducting the championship at 13 preliminary round sites spread throughout the country would be very difficult to execute in the current pandemic environment. The committee has decided the championship should be held in a single geographic area to enhance the safety and well-being of the event.”
NCAA staff in preliminary discussions with the state of Indiana and the city of Indianapolis to potentially host the 68-team tournament around the metropolitan area in March and April. Indianapolis is already scheduled to be the host site for the Final Four next April.
“My committee colleagues and I did not come lightly to the difficult decision to relocate the preliminary rounds of the 2021 tournament, as we understand the disappointment 13 communities will feel to miss out on being part of March Madness next year,” Mitch Barnhart, chair of the Division I Men’s Basketball Committee and University of Kentucky athletics director, said in a statement. “With the University of Kentucky slated to host first- and second-round games in March, this is something that directly impacts our school and community, so we certainly share in their regret. The committee and staff deeply appreciate the efforts of all the host institutions and conferences, and we look forward to bringing the tournament back to the impacted sites in future years.”
With the pandemic still waging on, and with the NCAA determined to host the NCAA Tournament in 2021 after it was canceled in 2020 just prior to its scheduled start, the decision to aim for March Madness in one city makes the most logistical sense. It reduces risk of virus transmission that players and staffers would be exposed to by flying across country throughout the tournament, and allows all mitigation efforts to be focused in one geographic location. With 68 teams, multiple venues would be necessary to pull off the event.
“We have learned so much from monitoring other successful sporting events in the last several months, and it became clear it’s not feasible to manage this complex championship in so many different states with the challenges presented by the pandemic,” said Dan Gavitt, NCAA Senior Vice President of Basketball. “However, we are developing a solid plan to present a safe, responsible and fantastic March Madness tournament unlike any other we’ve experienced.”