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.