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NCAA President: March Madness games will happen without fans in attendance

NCAA President Mark Emmert said the men's and women's basketball tournaments will be played with 'only essential staff and limited family attendance.'

OHIO, USA — The upcoming NCAA Division I men's and women's basketball tournaments will happen but without members of the public in attendance due to concerns about the spread of coronavirus. 

NCAA President Mark Emmert on Wednesday made it official in a statement on limiting attendance at NCAA events. Emmert explained the games will be played with "only essential staff and limited family attendance."

"While I understand how disappointing this is for all fans of our sports, my decision is based on the current understanding of how COVID-19 is progressing in the United States," the NCAA president said. "Today, we will move forward and conduct championships consistent with the current information and will continue to monitor and make adjustments as needed." 

The NCAA announcement came shortly after the organization's COVID-19 Advisory Panel issued recommendations for all NCAA sporting events to no longer be open to the public.

Earlier in the day, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said he will be issuing an order regarding “mass gatherings” due to the coronavirus. DeWine says the order will include banning spectators from games and that he’ll be asking people to make “informed decisions.”

Dayton will host the NCAA’s First Four next week at Dayton Arena, and first- and second-round games will be held in Cleveland’s Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.

Click here for the full list of March Madness games.

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Here's the full statement from the NCAA COVID-19 Advisory Panel:

"The NCAA COVID-19 Advisory Panel recognizes the fluidity of COVID-19 and its impact on hosting events in a public space. COVID-19 is spreading rapidly in the United States, and behavioral risk mitigation strategies are the best option for slowing the spread of this disease. This is especially important because mildly symptomatic individuals can transmit COVID-19. Given these considerations, coupled with a more unfavorable outcome of COVID-19 in older adults – especially those with underlying chronic medical conditions – we recommend against sporting events open to the public. We do believe sport events can take place with only essential personnel and limited family attendance, and this protects our players, employees, and fans."

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