The NCAA announced late Friday morning that they will be allowing a limited number of fans into games for this spring’s Division I men’s basketball tournament. In conjunction with local authorities, games will allow up to 25% seating capacity while also employing social distancing throughout the seating areas.
This number will also include event staff, teams, and family members of the teams. All attendees will be required to wear face coverings and practice social distancing.
All 2021 NCAA Tournament games have been moved to the Indianapolis area in order to attempt some semblance of a bubble.
“We continue to use the knowledge we have gained over the season on how to conduct games in a safe environment,” NCAA President Mark Emmert said in a release. “I want to thank our host universities and conferences, the Indiana State Health Department, and the leaders in the Marion, Monroe and Tippecanoe county health departments as they help make that possible.”
Despite the limited capacity, it will still be more fans than teams like Ohio State have played in front of this year.
“This year’s tournament will be like no other, and while we know it won’t be the same for anyone, we are looking forward to providing a memorable experience for the student-athletes, coaches and fans at a once-in-a-lifetime tournament,” said Dan Gavitt, NCAA senior vice president of basketball. “After the cancellation of the 2020 tournament, we are happy to welcome some fans back to all rounds of the Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament.”
The protocols for the tournament include testing, face coverings, physical distancing and contact tracing requirements before teams arrive and throughout their stay in the tournament.
This year’s tournament will be hosted by Ball State, Butler, Indiana, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, Purdue, and the Horizon League. Each of these entities are lending their facilities and staffs to assist with the tournament’s operations. The Indiana Convention Center will be used as a practice facility, with multiple courts set up inside the venue.
“The number one priority for decisions around the tournament continues to be the safety and well-being of everyone participating in the event,” said NCAA Chief Medical Officer Dr. Brian Hainline. “We have been in regular conversations with the NCAA COVID-19 Medical Advisory Group and local health officials to make sure we have the right protocols in place to provide a safe environment. Additionally, IU Health is providing critical testing and monitoring services enabling us to safely conduct the tournament.”
On a side note, two days ago the NCAA Division I Council extended the recruiting dead period for all sports through May 31, thereby eliminating any on-campus visits for prospective recruits until June at the earliest.
“After careful consideration of all available information, the Council agreed that an extension of the dead period through May 31 was necessary,” said Council chair M. Grace Calhoun, athletics director at Pennsylvania. “However, there is a strong commitment to use the next several weeks to outline the transition plan back to recruiting activities post June 1 and to provide those plans to prospective student-athletes, their families and the NCAA membership no later than April 15.”