Six NCAA tourney referees sent home after one tests positive for COVID-19

Six officials set to participate in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament have been removed from duty after one of them tested positive for COVID-19, CBS Sports reported Monday night.

CBS and other media say the referees arrived in Indianapolis on Sunday night to check into their hotel, where they were supposed to stay under pandemic protocols. However, when their rooms weren’t ready, they received permission to visit a downtown restaurant.

After returning to the hotel, one of the officials tested positive for the virus. The other five were removed from duty because of contract tracing protocols.

“The NCAA has replaced several officials for March Madness because of a positive COVID-19 test,” the NCAA said in a statement. “One official tested positive [Monday], and five other officials the person interacted with the day before were identified as exposure risks due to prolonged close contact. Based on tournament protocols and contract tracing with local public health authorities, these officials may not participate in the tournament. The infected official must be placed in isolation, and the other officials must be placed in quarantine.”

CBS Sports said four of the referees who were removed rank in the top 12 of KenPom’s season-long officials rankings. They were identified as Ted Valentine, John Higgins, Kipp Kissinger and Roger Ayers.

The NCAA brought 60 referees to Indiana for the tournament, which begins Thursday in West Lafayette and Bloomington. Games in Indianapolis start Friday.

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12 thoughts on “Six NCAA tourney referees sent home after one tests positive for COVID-19

    1. James – there is a bubble for a reason. I am sure there were protocols in-place that didn’t involve going to a restaurant.

    1. It’s a story because the NCAA supposedly has testing protocols in place prior to arrival in Indy and once people arrive in Indy. This shows that such protocols are not fail safe and also indicates that there is no way to prevent spread of the virus to the local population, even with all the stringent precautions put in place by the NCAA. We know all this of course, but this is a reminder on a national stage at a time when everyone seems to want to put the realities of a global pandemic behind us. It’s a story because many people are watching to see if large events like this one can occur safely, and if precautions work. And it’s a story for anyone with empathy because it’s unlikely the staff at this restaurant are all vaccinated, and so they could contract the virus, take it home, their kids spread it at their schools, and so on and so on.

    2. Cindy H., the restaurant servers are required to wear masks. And servers typically don’t get right up in the faces of customers, so the risk of transmission to them is very low…especially assuming this person tested negative within 48 hours of traveling, his “viral load” wouldn’t have been that high. The risk is much higher for his dinner companions, who wouldn’t have been masked.

  1. How could their hotel rooms not be ready? Hotels have been EMPTY for over a year now and they’ve known for months that the tournament is here….shouldn’t that have given them enough time to have rooms ready on time, early even?!

    1. Some hotels in town were nearly at capacity this past weekend, for a volleyball tournament and the Big Ten tournament.

  2. They were “given permission to go to dinner”. Repeat that slowly to yourself 3 times. Democrats, repeat it 7 or 8 times. Did they test before traveling? Also, slippery slope to give preference to athletic events, but maybe 60 Refs could have been vaccinated. Another question: what happens when vaccinated people start testing positive?

    1. It’s called the rules of engagement. If they don’t want to be sequestered, they don’t have to come work the Final Four. They’re not entitled to show up and work and behave how they want. Stop the garbage about Democrats. What’s next, you are going to tell me the players have free speech rights to call Ted Valentine a showboater on the court and not get T’d out of the game?

      A better question would have been if any of the refs were vaccinated sufficiently and, if so, why were they still sent home? Most states have gotten around to people the age of these refs.