Editorial: Kudos to local officials who staged a memorable NCAA Tournament

Congratulations to the Indiana Sports Corp., Visit Indy, city officials, the NCAA and all those responsible for hosting a Men’s Basketball Tournament that should make Hoosiers proud.

Was it without incident? No. One of the 68 teams had to drop out when players tested positive for COVID-19. A group of officials left even before the tourney began when one failed a test after the men had gone together to a restaurant. Health officials are investigating after a University of Alabama fan reportedly died of COVID after attending at least one game.

But in the midst of a pandemic with cases rising again, the tournament’s record for keeping the virus at bay was surprisingly good.

Only 15 of the more than 28,000 COVID-19 tests conducted over the course of the NCAA Tournament were positive, the organization announced Tuesday, one day after Baylor University captured the championship at Lucas Oil Stadium.

That’s a positivity rate of just 0.05%.

In other words, the “bubble” worked.

But that’s not all that worked. The Indiana Sports Corp. and the NCAA juggled 68 teams who played 66 games in six venues over three weeks. The logistics—the busing, the laundry, the meals and so much more—seemed almost impossible. And while we’re confident there were plenty of hiccups behind the scenes, it looked from the outside like a fairly well-oiled machine.

That would be worth noting under any circumstance (although we have come to expect that in Indianapolis). But these weren’t normal conditions—and not just because of the pandemic. No one has ever hosted the entire tournament. And no one has ever planned any such effort in just weeks.

So, pulling it off is like flashing a big neon sign announcing to the sports and events industries that Indianapolis is open for business.

Hospitality officials say that’s working. IBJ’s Mickey Shuey reports in a page 5 story that a dozen or so organizations are close to signing agreements to locate their events in Indianapolis—and most are groups that will be new to the city. We’re eager to learn more about those deals.

But the biggest benefit to hosting March Madness might be something much more subtle. The undertaking restored some confidence in a city and a downtown manhandled by the pandemic and social unrest. It brought life back to downtown hotels and restaurants and people back to the Circle.

And with thousands of Hoosiers receiving COVID vaccines every day, there’s a chance much of that momentum can continue.

So, thanks to the leaders and the thousands of volunteers who made the tournament a success—and to the NCAA for entrusting its biggest-revenue event to the city. You made us proud.•

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