No March Madness: NCAA calls off basketball tournaments, other sports championships

The National Collegiate Athletic Association on Thursday called off all winter and spring sports championships, including the men’s and women’s Division I basketball tournaments.

“This decision is based on the evolving COVID-19 public health threat, our ability to ensure the events do not contribute to spread of the pandemic, and the impracticality of hosting such events at any time during this academic year given ongoing decisions by other entities,” the Indianapolis-based organization said in a written statement.

The decision comes one day after the NCAA said it would not allow fans to attend games in hopes of stopping the potential spread of the virus. More than 1,400 people in the United States have tested positive and 40 have died. One dozen people have tested positive for the virus in Indiana.

Indianapolis was scheduled to host the Division I men’s basketball Midwest Regional round at Lucas Oil Stadium on March 26 and 28. And Fort Wayne’s Allen County War Coliseum was expected to host the women’s tournament Midwest Regional on March 28 and 30.

The IUPUI Natatorium was expected to host the Division I men’s swimming championships March 25-28.

This year will mark the first time since the NCAA men’s basketball tournament began in 1939 that the event has not occurred—a champion was even crowned during the height of World War II in the early 1940s.

The unprecedented move to cancel March Madness is the latest in an avalanche of maneuvers made this week by professional, collegiate and amateur sports leagues to suspend games and operations amid growing concerns over the coronavirus.

The Big Ten Conference and most other athletic conferences on Thursday announced the cancellation of their own tournaments. Those tourneys help determine the field for the NCAA tournament.

The National Hockey League, Major League Soccer and Major League Baseball all suspended their seasons, joining the National Basketball Association, which suspended operations Wednesday after a player tested positive for the virus. The United Soccer League, which includes the Indy Eleven, called off its games for at least 30 days.

IndyCar is barring spectators from its season-opening race in St. Petersburg, Florida, this weekend, allowing access to only essential personnel.

The NCAA’s decision is likely to cost the organization most, if not all, of the $827 million it was set to reap from a massive television rights deal with Turner Broadcasting System Inc. It follows calls from health officials and others to not move forward with the tournament.

This story will be updated.

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