NCAA's March Madness coronavirus plan will cost organization big

Coronavirus causes NCAA to change crowd policies

Fox News Headlines 24/7 sports reporter Jared Max discusses the NCAA’s decision to hold championship tournaments with only essential staff and limited family members due to coronavirus.

The NCAA’s lucrative March Madness basketball tournaments will proceed this month without fans in attendance due to concerns related to the coronavirus outbreak, jeopardizing expected revenue from the multibillion-dollar event.

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The NCAA’s Division I men’s basketball tournament generates $867.5 million annually from television and marketing rights alone, according to the institution’s website. The event composes a significant portion of the NCAA’s yearly revenue. In 2019, the NCAA earned an estimated $933 million when factoring in media rights, ticket sales and sponsorships.

Ticket revenue will certainly plunge after NCAA President Mark Emmert announced plans to limit attendance at the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments. Only school officials, essential staff and players' family members will be permitted to attend.

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“This decision is in the best interest of public health, including that of coaches, administrators, fans, and, most important, our student-athletes,” Emmert said Wednesday. "We recognize the opportunity to compete in an NCAA national championship is an experience of a lifetime for the students and their families.”

“Today, we will move forward and conduct championships consistent with the current information and will continue to monitor and make adjustments as needed,” the NCAA president added.

The decision, made at the recommendation of the NCAA’s coronavirus advisory panel, came as federal and state officials took drastic steps to limit the spread of coronavirus. U.S. authorities have reported more than 1,100 individual cases of coronavirus to date, as well as 29 deaths, according to a Johns Hopkins University database.

The NCAA did not detail a refund policy for fans who already purchased tickets.

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Several individual NCAA conferences have made significant changes to their annual postseason basketball tournaments due to coronavirus. The Big West Conference said it would host its postseason tournaments as scheduled but without fans in attendance.

“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,” said Big West Commissioner Dennis Farrell.

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The Mid-American Conference (MAC) took similar steps, announcing a restricted attendance policy for its men’s and women’s tournaments. Only credentialed personnel, including the media and players' family members, will be permitted at games.

The Big 12 Conference and the SEC opted to bar media from team locker rooms during their tournaments. The Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) and Atlantic 10 Conference said their events would proceed as scheduled.

The Ivy League opted to cancel its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments entirely out of concern related to the coronavirus.

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