Iowa Hawkeyes

NCAA, Big Ten tournaments closed to public due to coronavirus

Basketball, wrestling tournaments for family, essential staff

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

The decision to limit attendance at sporting events because of concerns about the spread of coronavirus hit a little closer to home Wednesday.

A lot closer actually.

The NCAA Division III Wrestling Championships at the U.S. Cellular Center — as well as the Big Ten and Big 12 men’s basketball tournaments in Indianapolis and Kansas City, respectively — have been closed to the general public.

The NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships next week in Minneapolis — where Iowa is the favorite — also will have limited access.

“... the NCAA has made the decision to conduct upcoming championship events with only essential staff and limited family attendance,” the American Rivers Conference, which is hosting the wrestling tournament Friday and Saturday, wrote in a statement. “While the NCAA understands how disappointing this is for all fans of our sport, the decision is based on the current understanding of how COVID-19 is progressing in the United States.

“This decision is in the best interest of public health, including that of coaches, administrators, fans and most importantly, our student-athletes. As of right now the 2020 NCAA DIII Wrestling Championships will be taking place.”

The Big Ten Conference also announced, beginning Thursday, attendance at the men’s basketball tournament will be limited to “student-athletes, coaches, event staff, essential team and conference staff, TV network partners, credentialed media, and immediate family members of the participating teams.”

Iowa plays Thursday at 1:25 p.m.

“The decisions that are being made to limit attendance at Big Ten Conference events and NCAA championship events are the result of information provided by national health experts,” Iowa athletics director Gary Barta said in a statement. “The Big Ten Conference and its league presidents are in full support of these decisions.

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“There are a lot of unknowns at this time in regard to tickets, travel and the affect these decisions will have on a large number of fans. We will be communicating information to those impacted by these decisions as we receive additional details.”

The ARC also noted in its release that the “whole situation is in flux and we will communicate more information when we have it.”

Big 12 teams will be allowed 125 tickets on a game-by-game basis beginning with Thursday’s quarterfinals. The arena will be cleared after each game. The tickets will go to guests of student-athletes and staff members, but pep bands, cheerleaders and dance teams won’t be allowed.

Earlier Wednesday, NCAA President Mark Emmert announced the Division I men’s and women’s basketball tournaments and wrestling championships also will not be open to the general public.

Emmert said in a statement he made the decision to conduct both the men’s and women’s tournaments, which begin next week, with only essential staff and limited family in attendance.

Emmert said the NCAA also was looking into moving the men’s Final Four from Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium to a smaller arena.

The 68-team field for the men’s tournament is scheduled to be announced Sunday and the 64-team women’s tournament field is to be unveiled Monday. Games begin Tuesday and Wednesday on the men’s side in Dayton, Ohio, where earlier Wednesday the governor said he would issue an order to restrict spectator access to indoor sporting events.

The Mid-American Conference on Tuesday announced it was closing its men’s and women’s basketball tournament games at Cleveland’s Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse to the general public. The women’s tournament started Wednesday. The Big West Conference announced a similar move, not allowing the general public into its basketball tournament games to be played this week at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif.

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