The possibility of NCAA Tournament games being played with no fans in the arenas becomes more and more real in the midst of concerns over the outbreak of the COVID-19 (Coronavirus).
In an attempt to contain the virus from spreading, advocacy groups for student athletes are attempting to convince the NCAA to play the games without fans in the stands. NCAA Chief Operating Officer Donald Remy issued a statement, saying, “The NCAA is committed to conducting its championships and events in a safe and responsible manner. Today we are planning to conduct our championships as planned; however, we are evaluating the COVID-19 situation daily and will make decisions accordingly.”
The NCAA has several reasons to continue March Madness in the same way as it normally does with fans in the stands and the top reason is obviously money. The NCAA generates nearly $1 billion a year and a large chunk of it comes from the men’s basketball tournament through media right fees, corporate sponsorships and ticket sales.
However, player and audience safety should come first. According to the Executive Director of the National College Players Association, “Precautions should include cancelling all auxiliary events that put players in contact with crowds such as meet and greets, as well as press events. In regard to the NCAA’s March Madness tournament and other athletic events, there should be serious discussion about holding competitions without an audience present. The NCAA and its colleges must act now, there is no time to waste.”
With all things considered, the NCAA should move forward with plans to play the games with no fans in attendance. Although March Madness is an outstanding sporting event for fans, the crowds are not particularly spectacular and games played on a neutral court do not provide teams with any real advantage.
Games could still be viewed on television and nothing would change for 99% of the overall audience. Playing without a crowd would not change anything for the players or coaches, and it would have only minimal impact on fans.
In other words, there are many, many reasons to play the games without crowds and only selfish reasons to play the games with fans in attendance. Although the Coronavirus could end up being a minor issue for the United States population, but it also has potential to become a massive pandemic that could cause real problems. Rather than making the selfish decision to play in front of the fans, the NCAA should immediately announce plans to play without an audience and do its part to prevent the spread of the virus.