The NCAA Division 1 Men’s Basketball Committee announced on Monday that the entire 2021 championship tournament would convene in a single geographic area due to public health concerns.
The decision requires the relocation of 13 preliminary round sites in cities that had hoped to benefit from an influx of tourist dollars to boost local economies, including Brooklyn, NY; Memphis, Tenn.; and Wichita, Kansas.
“We have learned so much from monitoring other successful sporting events in the last several months, and it became clear it’s not feasible to manage this complex championship in so many different states with the challenges presented by the pandemic,” said Dan Gavitt, NCAA Senior Vice President of Basketball. “However, we are developing a solid plan to present a safe, responsible and fantastic March Madness tournament unlike any other we’ve experienced.”
NCAA SVP Dan Gavitt & Committee Chair Mitch Barnhart provide insight into the decision to move the 2021 NCAA Tournament to one geographic area.
— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) November 16, 2020
According to USA Today, the games will likely be played in the Indianapolis area. The city serves as the NCAA headquarters and was scheduled to host the Final Four on April 3 and 5. A press release from the NCAA indicates staffers are in “preliminary talks” with city and state officials about accommodating the 68-team tournament.
As USA Today reported:
Limiting travel and providing a controlled environment will remain a priority for the planning committee, especially as COVID-19 infections reach record highs across the country. The decision to hold the tournament in one location is similar to how the NBA and NHL conducted their postseasons in “bubble” formats. …
The Indiana Sports Corp. had previously developed a plan for teams and conferences to play inside a bubble. Those games would have been played on courts at the Indiana Convention Center, and that would be an option for the NCAA tournament if no fans are allowed. …
Besides the Final Four at Lucas Oil Stadium, gym possibilities locally include Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Hinkle Fieldhouse, Farmers Coliseum, University of Indianapolis and Marian University. Southport Fieldhouse is another, although the NCAA would not likely place games where there are high school students. If the bubble extends beyond Marion County, which included Indianapolis, there are large arenas at Indiana University, Purdue, Ball State and Indiana State. Those arenas could accommodate physical distancing with some fans.
“My committee colleagues and I did not come lightly to the difficult decision to relocate the preliminary rounds of the 2021 tournament, as we understand the disappointment 13 communities will feel to miss out on being part of March Madness next year,” said Mitch Barnhart, chair of the NCAA Division 1 Men’s Basketball Committee and University of Kentucky athletic director.
In March, just as the committee had begun its selection process for the tournament bracket, the NCAA announced it had called off the men’s and women’s 2020 basketball championships because of “the evolving COVID-19 public health threat.” The cancellations cost the NCAA about $375 million that it would have distributed to hundreds of member schools.
No decision has been made about relocating the women’s 2021 tournament sites.
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