Health officials in Indianapolis are investigating potential COVID-19 exposures at the NCAA tournament following the death of an Alabama fan.
Luke Ratliff died on Friday at 23 years old. An Alabama student and a leader of the school's basketball fan club Crimson Chaos, Ratliff was one of Alabama's most visible fans. His father, Bryan Ratliff, confirmed his death Friday night.
"He was my son and my best friend,” Bryan Ratliff said, per the Tuscaloosa News. “But he had an extended Alabama family that I never met and he loved them and they loved him."
Alabama athletics posted a tribute to Ratliff on social media.
In February, head coach Nate Oats thanked Ratliff, known as "Fluffopotamus," for leading fan support from the student section.
Wanted to thank all the fans that came out and supported us tonight in our win over LSU. Student section was great. Really appreciate the leadership @fluffopotamus88 brings to our student section! Love having you guys behind us tonight. #RollTide
— Nate Oats (@nate_oats) February 4, 2021
Ratliff attended games, returned to Alabama
According to the Tuscaloosa News, Ratliff traveled to Indianapolis and attended games during Alabama's NCAA tournament run, which ended last weekend in a Sweet 16 loss to UCLA. He returned to Tuscaloosa on Monday.
The Marion County Public Health Department confirmed to the Indianapolis Star on Saturday that it was investigating whether anyone in Indianapolis was exposed to COVID-19 by an Alabama resident and that it had contacted the Alabama Department of Health. It did not confirm that Ratliff was the subject of its investigation.
"We are conducting an investigation following the county and state's standard contact tracing procedures," a statement from the agency reads. "We continue to encourage residents and visitors to practice the simple and important habits that keep us all safe: wearing a mask, washing hands, and social distancing."
NCAA fans allowed at limited capacity
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the entirety of this year's men's NCAA tournament has taken place in Indianapolis, which was originally slated to host just the Final Four this year. The tournament normally sees teams play in venues across the country during the first two weekends of games.
The NCAA allowed fans to attend games at 25% capacity at various venues across Indianapolis. Alabama played its opening-round game vs. Iona and against UCLA at Hinkle Fieldhouse. It played its second-round victory over Maryland at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
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