In response to concerns over the spread of coronavirus, the NCAA announced Wednesday that fans will not be able to attend its championships including the 2020 men's and women's NCAA Tournaments.
"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," NCAA President Mark Emmert said in a statement. "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."
The decision was made in conjunction and with advisement from the CDC, and with the NCAA's recently-formed advisory panel which consists of experts in the public health, epidemiology and medical fields.
It took many by surprise in the industry, including Baylor players at the Big 12 Tournament.
"I will say it is kind of a reality check," said Bears senior Freddie Gillespie.
"It's definitely shocking just to hear this," added Baylor senior Devonte Bandoo. "Having fans do make the experience a little bit better. It's very unfortunate. I pray that they do find a cure. It's something that we'll just to adapt to."
Baylor coach Scott Drew said he feels bad for fans who won't get to experience March Madness this year, but had a positive spin on things.
"Normally, we practice a lot before we play games so they're used to hearing our voice," Drew said. "Now they don't have an excuse where they say they can't hear us."
Had the NCAA not taken this step, it's possible that individual host sites may have arrived at the decision to ban fans sooner rather than later. Earlier on Wednesday, for instance, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced that NCAA Tournament games in Ohio -- the First Four in Dayton and first and second round games in Cleveland -- would proceed as planned but without fans, promising an executive order in the coming days to enforce such a decision. The Big West and MAC had already announced they would play their postseason tournaments without fans.
Joint Statement by CBS Sports & Turner Sports:— March Madness TV (@MarchMadnessTV) March 11, 2020
“We support the NCAA’s decision to proceed without fans at the tournament venues. We will continue with our plans to fully produce and cover the entire event.”
As for conference tournaments, it's business as usual -- for now. We could see major conferences make changes to its policies regarding fans in coming days, but many conferences have already begun their postseason tournaments and more will get underway Wednesday nigh including the Big 12, Atlantic 10, Big East, Big Ten, Conference USA, Pac-12, SEC and Southland.
Dennis Dodd contributed to this story