Johns Hopkins University announced Thursday the NCAA Division III men’s basketball tournament games it is hosting will be played without fans in attendance due to concerns around the coronavirus. It is believed to be the first major sporting event to do so in the U.S.
The National College Players Association late last week recommended “serious discussion” about holding games “without an audience present.” The NCAA said earlier this week its winter postseason tournaments would go on as planned, but it had set up an advisory panel to evaluate daily and “make decisions accordingly.”
Johns Hopkins: Tournament games played in empty arenas
Johns Hopkins is hosting the first two rounds of the men’s Division III basketball tournament on Friday and Saturday. Penn State Harrisburg, Worcester Polytechnic Institute and Yeshiva University are all playing at the site.
Late Thursday, the school announced those games will be played in front of empty arenas.
However, in light of Maryland's recently confirmed cases of COVID-19, and based on CDC guidance for large gatherings, we have determined that it is prudent to hold this tournament without spectators.
The school said the decision only applies to these games specifically. Other large events, including athletics, will be assessed on a case-by-case basis. Game tickets can be refunded, the school said.
Maryland announced its first three diagnosed cases of COVID-19 earlier Thursday. Per the Washington Post, the individuals contracted it while traveling overseas and are being quarantined at home. They live in Montgomery County, an hour outside of Baltimore.
Yeshiva: Hotel canceled team’s reservations
Yeshiva University, a private Orthodox Jewish school in New York, canceled classes through March 10 after a student tested positive. A professor also tested positive; the school recommended his students self-quarantine “until further notice.”
Yeshiva coach Elliot Steinmetz said the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel in Pikesville canceled the team’s reservation on Thursday due to concerns over COVID-19.
“I made it very clear to the hotel that it’s discrimination,” Steinmetz said, via the Associated Press. “I basically said to them: ‘Do you have a checkbox on your website that says that you’ve been in an area with suspected coronavirus?’ And they said no. So I said: ‘Is it just for the guests of Yeshiva University?’ And they said yes. I told them that that’s called discrimination.”
Josh Joseph, the university’s senior vice president, told the AP the infected student is not a member of the team, has not participated in team events and has not been on campus since Feb. 27. He said the New York City Department of Health “cleared” the team to be at the tournament.
NCAA working on response to COVID-19
Conference tournaments at the Division I level are already underway throughout the country, with hundreds of students, team personnel and fans packed into arenas for up to five consecutive days.
The Atlantic 10 Conference and the America East Conference have suspended the pre- and postgame handshake line, substituting forearm bumps. One conference representative said the leagues are working extra hard to eliminate germs at game sites.
The Chicago State men’s and women’s basketball teams canceled games against Seattle University. The Seattle area has become an epicenter of the virus with 70 reported cases. Miami (Ohio) also canceled games in late January due to concerns over students who had recently traveled to China.
NCAA task ‘like a Rubik’s cube’
Carlos del Rio, a global health department chair at Emory University, is one of six on the advisory panel set up by the NCAA that will help determine how the organization moves forward with not only the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, but competitions in hockey, wrestling, gymnastics, softball, baseball, track and field, and more.
Del Rio told the Washington Post the task the NCAA faces is “like a Rubik’s cube” because it involves countless locations around the country. It will rely on local information and risk assessment to provide recommendations ranging from providing more hand sanitizer to the extreme of cancelations.
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