A widespread number of Division I athletic conferences have cancelled their basketball tournaments amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The AAC, ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, SEC and more pulled the plug on their scheduled competitions in the wake of growing health concerns and other major sporting event cancellations. Certain tournaments, such as the Big East, were already underway before officials announced play would not continue at halftime of Thursday’s St. Johns vs. Creighton game. Meanwhile, the Big Ten made the call while players were warming up.
The news comes just hours after NCAA President Mark Emmert revealed that March Madness games would proceed barring fan attendance, but rather only feature essential personnel and families at each game. Shortly after, the NBA suspended its season upon a Utah Jazz player testing positive for the coronavirus (COVID-19). Officials have maintained that rather than suspend operations, the NCAA basketball conference tournaments will not take place and see regular season winners earn automatic bids into the national tournament.
“I think it’s important, we wanted to make it clear, that we’re canceling it because, again, first and foremost we need to make sure we protect the health and safety of you all, of our student-athletes, of our administrators, of our fans,” Big Ten Conference Commissioner Kevin Warren said in a press conference. “I wish I knew more information. This is a fluid situation. I can’t recall the last time we’ve had a pandemic, but we do here. It’s really important that we’re thoughtful. If it comes down that I overreacted or we overreacted, I’m comfortable with that.”
Warren also noted that he made the call to cancel in order to prevent an escalated situation and was in contact with Emmert prior to announcing the tournament’s axing.
“I want to make sure as a conference we do the right things because if something had gone awry here, I don’t want to be in a position looking back saying, ‘Only if we would have canceled this tournament,'” he told reporters. “I know we all love college athletics, we love basketball, women’s and men’s basketball. This is a great time of the year. It’s part of the fabric of our country. Again, these are not easy decisions, but I feel very good with the decision we have made at the Big Ten Conference to cancel our Big Ten Men’s Basketball Tournament.”
Sporting events around the country are scrambling to proceed. While the NCAA Tournament will be played with limited attendance, other large-scale events have been cancelled, including high-profile tennis tournaments BNP Paribas Open and Miami Open. Sources also claim that the NHL and MLB will follow the NBA’s lead and suspend their 2020 seasons until further notice as the country grapples with the coronavirus.
Stay tuned here for all live event updates in relation to the outbreak.