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Sports

March Madness in empty arenas? Group says NCAA should consider it because of coronavirus

The crowd reacts to a shot by North Carolina State’s Beejay Anya during the third round of the 2015 NCAA men’s basketball tournament at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh.
(Jared Wickerham / Getty Images)
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An advocacy group is urging the NCAA to have “a serious discussion” about playing March Madness games with no fans in attendance because of concerns over the coronavirus.

The National College Players Assn., a nonprofit group that advocates on behalf of college athletes, issued a statement Saturday asking the NCAA to take numerous steps regarding its college basketball championship tournament and other events in response to the worldwide coronavirus outbreak. The organization suggests such precautions as canceling special events that put players in direct contact with crowds and ensuring that team buses and airplanes are properly sanitized.

Three paragraphs into the statement, comes the recommendation that is sure to get the most attention.

“In regard to the NCAA’s March Madness Tournament and other athletic events, there should be a serious discussion about holding competitions without an audience present.” the NCPA said.

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“Google just cancelled a summit in California and Amazon is encouraging its employees to avoid all nonessential travel because of coronavirus concerns. The NCAA and its colleges must act now, there is no time to waste.”

The NCAA has not directly acknowledged that suggestion but says it is staying on top of the situation.

“NCAA staff continues to prepare for all NCAA winter and spring championships, but we are keenly aware of coronavirus and will continue to monitor in coordination with state/local health authorities and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” NCAA spokesman Greg Johnson said Sunday to CNN.

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The NCAA also addresses the coronavirus outbreak on its website.

“As they would when confronting any public health crisis, championships staff will add appropriate safeguards in coordination with campus and local health response teams to address concerns about the virus,” the organization stated through its sports science institute.

According to Johns Hopkins University, more than 89,000 cases of coronavirus have been confirmed worldwide, including 86 in the U.S.

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