NCAA: March Madness to be held without fans due to coronavirus

Only essential staff and some family members will be allowed in to attend men’s and women’s basketball games

A large bottle of hand sanitizer sits next to a door as fans prepare to enter the arena for an NBA basketball game between the San Antonio Spurs and the Dallas Mavericks in San Antonio, Tuesday, March 10, 2020. (AP Photo/Eric Gay) (Eric Gay, Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

The Latest on the coronavirus outbreak's affect on sports around the globe (all times EDT):

1:12 a.m.

So what will an Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament game look like without fans?

The conference plans to allow each of the remaining eight teams 150 tickets for "essential tournament personnel, school administrators and families of student-athletes" to attend Thursday's four ACC quarterfinal games in Greensboro, North Carolina. School bands and cheerleaders also will be allowed in and won't count toward the allotted 150-person limit.

The conference plans to curtain off the upper deck to make the setting more intimate.

The 150 people from the four teams playing in the afternoon games will be seated in separate sections opposite the team benches. They will be escorted out after afternoon games and the personnel from the four teams competing in the evening games will be allowed in.

Broadcast television and credentialed media will also be allowed to attend.

—Steve Reed reporting from Greensboro, North Carolina.


12:20 p.m.

The PGA Tour says it is going forward with plans to open play Thursday in The Players Championship at the TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra, Florida.

“With the information currently available, The Players championship will continue as scheduled, although we will absolutely continue to review recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control, World Health Organization and local health administrations,” the tour said in a statement.

“This is obviously a very fluid situation that requires constant review, communication and transparency, and we are dedicated to all three aspects.”

The tour said it provide an update by noon Thursday.


12:05 a.m.

A Western Athletic Conference women's basketball game between CSU Bakersfield and Grand Canyon in Las Vegas has been postponed until Thursday after a player got sick and was taken to the hospital to be tested for coronavirus.

The WAC said the player was never in the arena and the game was postponed out of caution, pending test results. The game had not started when it was postponed was rescheduled for 9:30 a.m.

A previously-scheduled meeting between university presidents and athletic directors will take place on Thursday morning to determine any further decisions about the tournament.

11:57 p.m.

Chicago Cubs pitcher Yu Darvish thinks a Major League Baseball player will get coronavirus eventually, and when that happens, he expects MLB to suspend its season just as the NBA did Wednesday night.

“At some point, somebody will get coronavirus I think,” the Japanese right-hander said. “If somebody would get it, I think MLB will do the same thing as the NBA.”

A message was left seeking comment from MLB after the NBA announced the suspension of its season.

Darvish visited a hospital last week fearing he may have the COVID-19 virus but was determined to have another illness. He found out about the NBA news, including that Utah Jazz player Rudy Gobert had tested positive for the virus, after making a spring training start against San Diego in Mesa, Arizona.

Despite his concerns about a player being diagnosed, Darvish said he was not yet urging MLB to postpone opening day, which is set for March 26.

“I’m not MLB commissioner so I can’t say anything about it,” he said. “But if I’m the commissioner, I want to see more, like one more week.”

—Jake Seiner reporting from Mesa, Arizona.


10:15 p.m.

The National Hockey League says it is aware of the NBA's decision to suspend its season and is continuing to consult with medical experts and evaluate options. The NHL says it expects to provide another update Thursday.

So far, the NHL has not made any declarations about even holding games without fans in the stands. The Columbus Blue Jackets became the first team to announce that, beginning with their game Thursday night against Pittsburgh. The San Jose Sharks said they would hold their three home games in March in an empty arena.

—Stephen Whyno reporting.


9:17 P.M.

The Southeastern Conference has joined the rest of the Power Five leagues in closing off its men’s basketball tournament to fans.

The SEC opened its tourney in Nashville on Wednesday night after the NCAA announced that only family and essential personnel would attend its men’s and women’s tournament games that begin around the country next week. The league said then it was evaluating plans for the remainder of its tournament.

About 15 minutes after Georgia beat Ole Miss to open the tournament, the SEC announced it was joining the Atlantic Coast Conference, Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12 in keeping the general public out of the final four days of its tournament.

“We regret the inconvenience and disappointment this decision has caused our fans, especially those who have already traveled to Nashville for the tournament,” SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said in a statement.

The SEC also says fans will be kept out of all regular-season events on its campuses and other league championships through at least March 30.

—Teresa M. Walker reporting from Nashville, Tennessee.


8:57 p.m.

The crowd late in the Big 12 first-round game between Iowa State and Oklahoma State booed loudly when the public address announcer read a prepared statement on the tournament being played without fans beginning with the quarterfinal round Thursday.

The league made the decision shortly before tip-off of Wednesday night's game. It had considered barring fans from the first-round games, including a nightcap between TCU and Kansas State, before deciding that such a decision made so close to the start of the games would have caused more harm than help.

The quartet of games Thursday will be played with only university staff members, 125 friends and family from each team, credentialed media and essential arena employees. Pep bands, cheerleaders and dance teams will not be allowed.

—Dave Skretta reporting from Kansas City.


8:47 p.m.

The Oakland Athletics are working with Major League Baseball to figure out alternate plans for their season-opening series at the Coliseum after the City of Oakland imposed a ban on gatherings of 1,000 or more people through the end of March.

The team hasn't said whether it was considering a different location for the games or the idea of playing in an empty ballpark the way the Golden State Warriors plan to do across the bay in San Francisco on Thursday night.

Oakland is scheduled to host the Minnesota Twins for a four-game series beginning March 26, and then the Houston Astros are set to play their first road series following the club's sign-stealing scandal on March 30-31 at the Coliseum.

The Giants earlier in the day announced they wouldn't play a scheduled exhibition game against the A's at Oracle Park on March 24.

—Reporting by Janie McCauley.


8 p.m.

The Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament joined the Big 12 and Big Ten in playing without fans starting with Thursday’s quarterfinal round.

The league announced the decision in a statement Wednesday evening. That came late on the second day of the five-day event, after fans had attended four full games and half of the Boston College-Notre Dame game at the Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, North Carolina.

The league cited the “rapidly changing landscape regarding COVID-19,” saying games would be played only with teams, player guests, limited school administrators and credentialed media present.

Thursday’s games are the first to feature the top seeds in No. 4 Florida State, No. 10 Duke, No. 15 Louisville and No. 17 Virginia.

The NCAA announced that only family and essential personnel would attend the “March Madness” tournament games that begin next week around the country, including in Greensboro. After the NCAA’s announcement, the Big 12 and Big Ten -- which were opening play in their league tournaments Wednesday -- made similar calls to keep out fans with Thursday’s games.

—Reporting by Aaron Beard.


7:10 p.m.

The Big 12 and Big Ten basketball tournaments will proceed without fans beginning with Thursday's games, following the lead of the NCAA Tournament in barring anybody but family and essential personnel. Each conference started Wednesday's tournament games with fans in attendance.

Going forward, Big 12 teams will be allowed 125 tickets on a game-by-game basis beginning with Thursday's quarterfinals at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri. The arena will be cleared after each game. The tickets will go to guests of student-athletes and staff members, but pep bands, cheerleaders and dance teams won't be allowed.

At the Big Ten tourney in Indianapolis, attendance starting Thursday will be limited to student-athletes, coaches, event staff, essential team and conference staff, TV network partners, credentialed media and immediate family members of the participating teams.

The Big 12 policy also will be in place for its women's tournament, which begins Thursday night in Kansas City.

"The attempt is to absolutely minimize the number of people here but still find a way to conduct events and actually get the opportunity to play games," Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsy said.

—Reporting by Dave Skretta


6:40 p.m.

Italian soccer club Juventus says one of its players, defender Daniele Rugani, has tested positive for COVID-19.

Rugani, who also plays for the Italian national team, is the first player in the country's top soccer division to test positive.

Juventus, which has won the last eight Serie A titles, announced the result on its website and social media channels.

The club says Rugani and those known to have had contact with him are being isolated.

Italian soccer, along with all other sports in the country, has been suspended until April 3.


6:15 p.m.

The Columbus Blue Jackets are the first National Hockey League team to say they'll hold home games without fans in the stands.

The Blue Jackets announced their game Thursday night against the Pittsburgh Penguins would be limited “to home and visiting club personnel, credentialed media and broadcast partners, essential club and arena staff and NHL officials. The games will be closed to the public.”

The decision comes in response to Ohio Gov. DeWine's announcement that he is issuing an order regarding “mass gatherings,” include a ban on spectators at sports events.

The Blue Jackets said the new restrictions for home games will be in effect for as long as the state of Ohio's mandate on large gatherings.

— Reporting by Mitch Stacy.


6:05 p.m.

Two college athletic conferences in the northeastern United States have canceled the bulk of their athletic events for the remainder of the academic year.

The Ivy League says all athletic practices and events have been canceled, while the Division III New England Small College Athletic Conference says it's canceling conference play for all spring sports.

The decisions come as colleges and universities place increasing restrictions on student gatherings in hopes of limiting the spread of the coronavirus.

"Given this situation, it is not feasible for practice and competition to continue," the Ivy League said in a statement.

The Princeton, New Jersey-based league says the decision by member university presidents to scrap all practices and competitions was unanimous.

The Ivy League says individual institutions may still decide whether winter sports teams or athletes who've qualified for postseason play may continue to participate.


5:25 p.m.

Baylor men's basketball coach Scott Drew says it's “sad” that college coaches and players in the NCAA Tournament won’t get to experience the excitement that a fan presence adds to the games.

Drew says it also will be an adjustment for coaches who now have to prepare for an environment similar to the scrimmages they conduct during the preseason. He notes that players won’t have the excuse that they can’t hear coaches’ instructions.

Drew and some players spoke after No. 5 Baylor practiced Wednesday in preparation for the Big 12 tournament in Kansas City, Missouri, where teams learned of NCAA President Mark Emmert’s decision to restrict attendance of the NCAA postseason events. Emmert says only essential staff and limited family members will be permitted to attend the games. The decision applies to more than just men's and women's basketball. All NCAA-sponsored championships including hockey’s Frozen Four will be affected.

Baylor guard Devonte Bandoo says it’s “shocking” and “really unfortunate” that fans will be barred from the NCAA Tournament. He calls it a “reality check.”

Drew says he suspects playing in an empty arena will adequately address public health concerns and that he’s not concerned at this point about the possibility of games being canceled.

— Reporting by Dave Skretta


4:40 p.m.

NCAA President Mark Emmert says NCAA Division I basketball tournament games will be played without fans in the arenas because of concerns about the spread of coronavirus.

Emmert said in a statement Wednesday he made the decision to conduct both the men's and women's tournaments, which begin next week, with only essential staff and limited family in attendance.


4:30 p.m.

NASCAR and IndyCar plan to race as scheduled this weekend, with IndyCar continuing to move ahead with its season-opening race through the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida.

The three-day downtown street festival draws about 130,000 people. There will be additional hand-washing and sanitizing stations.

NASCAR will race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, but said officials Wednesday all driver interviews will be done with the drivers either on risers or with 6-foot buffers around them. The pre-race driver meeting will be held in open-air locations and attendance will be restricted to drivers, crew chiefs, team owners and select officials and dignitaries.

The promoters of the Long Beach Grand Prix, scheduled for April outside of Los Angeles, said Wednesday the race is still planned.

Roger Penske, readying for his first Indianapolis 500 as owner of the race, told The Associated Press by text message he’s approaching the scheduled May 24 race “day by day” while noting the 500 is nearly 90 days away.

- Reporting by Jenna Fryer


4:25 p.m.

A global esports league with teams in North America, Europe and Asia is canceling all matches through March and April because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Overwatch League launched an ambitious home-and-away schedule for its 20 franchises in February but already had postponed all events in China and South Korea due to the outbreak. The league announced the latest cancellations in a statement Wednesday.

The league’s players come from countries around the globe. OWL says it is “considering the various options available to esports.”

Blizzard Entertainment, which operates the Overwatch and Call of Duty Leagues, said scheduling considerations also are being addressed for the latter.


4:10 p.m.

The World Figure Skating Championships set for next week in Montreal have been canceled due to public health concerns related to the spread of the new coronavirus.

Quebec Province Health Minister Danielle McCann made the announcement Wednesday.

The event was scheduled to bring nearly 200 skaters from more than 50 countries to Montreal. It is the premier competition of the skating season in non-Olympic years. It is scheduled for Stockholm next year.

On Saturday, the Women's World Hockey Championships in Nova Scotia were called off.


4 p.m.

Nebraska is the latest state to limit attendance or cancel a state high school championship tournament.

The Nebraska boys' basketball tournament will be played as scheduled Thursday through Saturday, but the only fans allowed into the venues will be participants' immediate families.

The Lincoln and Lancaster County Health Department recommended limiting spectators because of concern about the spread of coronavirus. Health officials announced this week that a Crofton High School student who attended the girls' tournament in Lincoln last week was diagnosed with COVID-19.

Ohio announced that only participants' families and media will be allowed to attend winter sports postseason tournaments.

Connecticut has canceled the remainder of its winter sports seasons as well as state tournaments.

Boys' and girls' basketball tournaments in New York and Pennsylvania have been disrupted because several schools have declined to host games, forcing them to be rescheduled.

- Reporting by Eric Olson


3:45 p.m.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said he will be issuing an order regarding “mass gatherings” due to the coronavirus that will affect NCAA Tournament games in Cleveland and Dayton.

DeWine says the order will include banning spectators from games and that he’ll be asking people to make “informed decisions.”

During a news conference Wednesday, DeWine said he will issue an order in the next 24 to 36 hours. Dayton will host the NCAA’s First Four next week at Dayton Arena, and first- and second-round games will be held in Cleveland’s Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.

“The order will be that there cannot be spectators there," DeWine said. "There certainly will be people — there will be TV people, there can be radio people there, there can be sports writers, certainly can be the media there. But we’re not going to have the large crowd.”

DeWine applauded the Mid-American Conference for closing its tournament games to the general public this week.

— Reporting by Tom Withers


3:20 p.m.

Skiing officials have called off the last races of the women's Alpine skiing World Cup because of public health concerns related to the spread of the coronavirus.

The decision to call off the three-day event in Are, Sweden, hands Federica Brignone of Italy the overall title and denies Mikaela Shiffrin a return to racing this season.

Brignone becomes the first Italian women's overall champion in the 53-year history of the World Cup.

Shiffrin, the defending overall champion, had announced earlier Wednesday that she would compete at the event after taking a six-week break from the sport following the death of her father.

During her absence, Shiffrin lost her lead in the overall standings to Brignone, who is 153 points ahead of the American. There would have been a total of 300 points up for grabs in the last three races.

The International Ski Federation announced the cancellation less than 24 hours before the first race, Thursday's parallel giant slalom.

Next week's World Cup finals for both women and men in Cortina d’Ampezzo already had been canceled because of the virus outbreak in northern Italy.


2:45 p.m.

The Fed Cup finals have been postponed indefinitely in response to concerns about the spread of the new coronavirus.

The 12-team women's tennis tournament was set to be played April 14-19 in Budapest, Hungary. The International Tennis Federation said it still hopes to stage the event in 2020, but did not announce a date.

The Fed Cup serves as a qualifying event for the Olympics and the ITF said it “is working closely with the IOC to address any impact this may have on athlete eligibility” for the Tokyo Games.

All playoff matches between lower-ranked teams, which were set to be played in eight locations around the world, were also postponed.

ITF President David Haggerty said “we are extremely disappointed to have to make this decision, but we will not risk the safety and welfare of players, captains, event staff or spectators."

The Fed Cup finals features a new format this year with 12 teams competing in four groups before a knockout phase. The United States is set to play Spain and Slovakia in Group C.


2:35 p.m.

An exhibition baseball game in San Francisco between the Giants and Oakland Athletics has been canceled because of the virus outbreak.

The Bay Area teams were set to play at Oracle Park on March 24. That was two days before the start of the regular season in Major League Baseball.

The announcement came Wednesday after the San Francisco mayor banned gatherings of 1,000 or more people.


2:30 p.m.

San Francisco is banning all large gatherings of more than 1,000 people for the next two weeks and the Golden State Warriors intend to play at least one home game without fans.

Mayor London Breed announced the ban Wednesday. She says she understands the order "is disruptive, but it is an important step to support public health." She says the Warriors are in support of the efforts, and the team announced it would host the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday night with no fans, making it the first NBA game set to be played in an empty arena.

The Warriors' next home game after that is March 25 against Atlanta.

Golden State also said all events through March 21 would be canceled or postponed. The G League Santa Cruz Warriors were set to host the Austin Spurs on Saturday, but that will be moved to Santa Cruz.

Fans will receive refunds, the team said.

— Reporting by Janie McCauley


2:05 p.m.

The Mariners will move home games from Seattle through end of March following the state of Washington's decision to ban large group events in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

Seattle had been scheduled to open the season at Safeco Field with a four-game series against Texas from March 26-29, then host Minnesota in a three-game series from March 30 through April 1.

The Mariners say they are working with the commissioner's office on alternative plans.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee on Wednesday announced a ban on all large gatherings in the three counties of the Seattle metro area through at least the end of March.

That decision affects the Seattle Mariners' first seven games of the season, when they host the Texas Rangers and Minnesota Twins. It also applies to home games for the MLS Seattle Sounders, XFL Seattle Dragons and a pair of junior hockey teams in the area.

The restrictions do not include Spokane, where NCAA Tournament games are scheduled to take place next week. The men’s first and second rounds are being played at the Spokane Arena, while early rounds of the women’s tournament could end up being played on campus at Gonzaga.


1:35 p.m.

Stanford is still willing to host the NCAA women's basketball tournament with a strict limit on spectators if selected to do so next week.

The school in Northern California said Wednesday that all sporting events on campus will be closed to the public through May 15 or until further notice in response to the spread of the new coronavirus.

Only participants, coaches, working staff, officials, credentialed media and a very limited number of family members, friends and guests of the competing teams will be allowed to attend. Santa Clara County announced a ban earlier this week of gatherings of more than 1,000 people.

The seventh-ranked Cardinal were expected to be picked as a host for the tournament that starts March 20. The top 16 teams are picked as hosts of the opening two rounds.

The NCAA didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

-- Reporting by Josh Dubow


1:20 p.m.

One of college basketball's postseason invitational tournaments has been canceled.

Organizers of the College Basketball Invitational, widely known as the CBI, say they've decided to cancel this year's event because of the “uncertainty about the coronavirus and the impact it is having on college campuses across the country.”

The tournament is played at campus sites for teams that aren't invited to the NCAA Tournament or the NIT.

The statement issued Wednesday says officials look forward to bringing back the CBI in 2021.


1 p.m.

The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases told a congressional committee Wednesday that he would recommend the NBA not allow fans at games in response to the coronavirus.

That answer by Dr. Anthony Fauci came hours before NBA owners are scheduled to meet to discuss the next steps in responding to the growing concern about the virus.

Fauci was responding to a question from Rep. Glenn Grothman, a Wisconsin Republican, during a meeting of the House Oversight Committee. Grothman asked, “Is the NBA underreacting or is the Ivy League overreacting?” He was referencing how the Ivy League recently canceled its basketball tournaments, instead of having them played without fans in attendance or keeping the status quo.

“We would recommend that there not be large crowds,” Fauci said. “If that means not having any people in the audience when the NBA plays, so be it. But as a public health official, anything that has crowds is something that would give a risk to spread.”