How Coronavirus Is Impacting March Madness and Conference Tournaments

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As coronavirus cases continue to get reported across the United States, the NCAA and its conferences are continuing to act. 

NCAA president Mark Emmert announced on Wednesday afternoon that the men's and women's NCAA tournaments will be held without fans in arenas due to the coronavirus. The games will still go on as planned, but only "essential staff and limited family" will be permitted to attend. 

A slate of conference tournaments will begin or continue on Thursday despite the NBA suspending its season due to the coronavirus outbreak. The Big 12, Big Ten and Atlantic 10 are all holding their tournaments on Thursday, albeit with limited or no attendance.

Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo said that the Big Ten tournament should be postponed or cancelled on Thursday.

The NIT will also be played without fans in attendance, the NCAA announced

The sport's major conferences, including the Big 12, Big Ten, Big East, SEC and ACC have prohibited fan access starting Thursday at their respective tournaments.

Prior to Wednesday, the NCAA made a statement that it "continues to assess how COVID-19 impacts the conduct of our tournaments and events. We are consulting with public health officials and our COVID-19 advisory panel, who are leading experts in epidemiology and public health, and will make decisions in the coming days."

Earlier Tuesday, the governing body released another statement, saying that "schools and conferences make their own decisions regarding regular season and conference tournament play." They added then that they had not been advised against holding sporting events, but that they were monitoring information accordingly. 

Last week, the NCAA announced it was forming an advisory panel to learn more about the virus. 

Conferences have also started acting, adjusting schedules and postseason play accordingly. 

The Ivy League decided to cancel the upcoming Ivy League Men’s and Women’s Basketball tournaments on Tuesday. 

Both the Big West and MAC men's and women's basketball tournaments will all be played without spectators and closed to the general public, the conferences announced Tuesday evening.

"The Big West Board of Directors, comprised of the chief executive officers of the nine-member universities, strongly feel that this is a prudent way to help slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus while being sensitive to our student-athletes who have pointed towards playing in the tournament all season," Big West commissioner Dennis Farrell said.

"The safety of all is our greatest concern," Mid-American Conference commissioner Dr. Jon Steinbrecher said. "Since January, I have stated that any decision would follow the advice of stave governmental and medical professionals. Following the feedback we received today we have taken this action which is alignment with the recommendation of Gov. [Mike] DeWine."  

Earlier Tuesday afternoon, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine tweeted that he recommends only "athletes, parents and others essential to the game" attend indoor sporting events across the state, no matter their level.

DeWine issued a state of emergency in Ohio, and health officials said Tuesday that three people have tested positive for the virus and are quarantined at home.

The Big 12, ACC, Big East and SEC have all announced they will not allow media in the locker room for their conference tournaments, following the NBA, MLB, NHL and MLS in doing so. Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby announced fans would be prohibited from attending the Big 12 tournament beginning on March 12, with each team receiving access 125 tickets.

The Big Ten Network will not send its studio team to the men's basketball conference tournament in Indianapolis due to coronavirus concerns.

Previously, Johns Hopkins announced the first two rounds of the NCAA Division III tournament in Maryland would be played without any spectators in attendance. Chicago State and UMKC also previously decided to cancel games against Seattle University, though Chicago State is participating in the WAC Conference tournament this week in Las Vegas.

As of Tuesday evening, the CDC is reporting that there are 647 cases in the United States and 25 deaths in America as a result of COVID-19. 

The virus is also having a major impact on other sports in America and sports globally.