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Coronavirus prompts suspension of NBA season, NCAA Tournament fans ban

Coronavirus prompts suspension of NBA season, NCAA Tournament fans ban

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March Madness and the NBA made major decisions because of the coronavirus pandemic Wednesday.

The NCAA announced Wednesday that upcoming NCAA championships, including the Division I men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, will be held without the general public in attendance. Only limited family members, essential staff, TV crews broadcasting the events and the media will be permitted.

The NBA announced Wednesday night that it was suspending its season until further notice, beginning Thursday, because a Utah Jazz player had preliminarily tested positive for the virus. A person with knowledge of the situation said the player who tested positive was Rudy Gobert. The test result prompted the NBA to cancel Utah’s game with Oklahoma City on Wednesday night shortly before tipoff.

NCAA President Mark Emmert said Wednesday he made the NCAA’s decision after the NCAA’s COVID-19 advisory panel of medical experts recommended against playing sporting events open to the general public.

“The decision was based on a combination of the information provided by national and state officials, by the advisory team that we put together of medical experts from across the country, and looking at what was going to be in the best interest of our student-athletes, of course,” Emmert told the Associated Press in a phone interview. “But also the public health implications of all of this. We recognize our tournaments bring people from all around the country together. They’re not just regional events. They’re big national events. It’s a very, very hard decision for all the obvious reasons.”

In the wake of the NCAA decision Wednesday, the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, SEC, Atlantic 10 and American Athletic Conference announced they would ban the general public from their conference men’s basketball tournaments beginning Thursday.

Also in the wake of the NCAA decision, the Big South announced Wednesday that the general public will not be allowed at its women’s basketball tournament. Radford, as well as Campbell, will be hosting a quarterfinal doubleheader Thursday and a semifinal Friday. The highest remaining seed will host Sunday’s title game. Only family members, the media, administrators and essential staff will be allowed at the tournament.

Emmert said the NCAA wants to move the men’s Final Four on April 4 and 6 from Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium to a smaller arena in the area. The NCAA also will consider using smaller venues for second-week regional sites currently set to be played at the Toyota Center in Houston, Madison Square Garden in New York, Staples Center in Los Angeles and Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

“We have to determine the availability of the sites, obviously, but it doesn’t make good sense to have a football stadium be empty,” Emmert said.

All sites for next week’s men’s games will remain the same unless conditions in those areas force relocation, he said.

First- and second-round sites for the women’s tournament will become official next week. Those games are usually played at or near the campuses of the highly seeded teams.

Other upcoming NCAA championships will also be affected, such as wrestling, swimming, indoor track and hockey.

Earlier Wednesday, before the NCAA decision, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine had said he would issue an order to restrict spectator access to indoor sporting events. That would have affected NCAA men’s basketball tournament games next week in Dayton and Cleveland, even if the NCAA had not acted later in the day. The Mid-American Conference had already announced Tuesday that it would ban the general public from its basketball tournament this week in Cleveland.

In the wake of that decision, the Columbus Blue Jackets of the NHL announced that their home games would be closed to the general public while their state’s ban is in effect.

Virginia Tech and the University of Virginia each announced Wednesday that classes would move online and school events with more than 100 people were prohibited. But each school exempted its athletic events from that restriction. Neither school has announced a ban on fans at its games.

Virginia Tech, UVa, Radford, Roanoke College, Washington and Lee, Ferrum and Hollins all held home spring-sporting events as scheduled Wednesday. VMI’s baseball team played a road game Wednesday as planned.

The Ivy League on Wednesday canceled all of its spring sports for the rest of the season, as did the New England Small College Athletic Conference.

The Virginia Tech women’s lacrosse team did play a game at Ivy member Brown as planned Wednesday, but it became the Brown team’s season finale.

Because of the Ivy League’s decision, VMI’s home baseball series with Ivy member Cornell this weekend has been cancelled.

Because of the NESCAC decision, W&L’s home baseball game Thursday with NESCAC member Tufts has been canceled.

Also Wednesday, organizers of the College Basketball Invitational decided to cancel this year’s event. The CBI is played at campus sites for teams that aren’t invited to the NCAA Tournament or the NIT.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee on Wednesday announced a ban on all large gatherings in the three counties of the Seattle metro area through at least the end of March.

That decision affects the Seattle Mariners’ first seven games of the regular season, when they host the Texas Rangers and Minnesota Twins. It also applies to home games for the MLS Seattle Sounders and the XFL Seattle Dragons. The Mariners are working with the commissioner’s office on alternative plans.

San Francisco Mayor London Breed announced Wednesday a ban of all large gatherings of more than 1,000 people for the next two weeks. So even before the NBA’s decision, the Golden State Warriors planned to play their Thursday home game with no fans.

A March 24 exhibition baseball game in San Francisco between the Giants and Oakland Athletics was canceled because of the mayor’s ban.

NASCAR will race at Atlanta Motor Speedway this weekend, but officials said Wednesday all driver interviews will be done with the drivers either on risers or with 6-foot buffers around them.

The World Figure Skating Championships set for next week in Montreal have been canceled.

The Nebraska boys’ basketball tournament will be played as scheduled Thursday through Saturday, but the only fans allowed into the venues will be participants’ immediate families.

Skiing officials have called off the last races of the women’s Alpine skiing World Cup. The decision to call off the three-day event in Are, Sweden, hands Federica Brignone of Italy the overall title and denies Mikaela Shiffrin a return to racing this season.

The Fed Cup finals have been postponed indefinitely. The 12-team women’s tennis tournament was set to be played April 14-19 in Budapest, Hungary.

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