UT, NCAA close upcoming sporting events to fans

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Photo Credit: Rena Li | Daily Texan Staff

Editor's Note: This story was updated to include breaking updates.

On the same day that the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, UT and the NCAA both made announcements concerning fan attendance at upcoming sporting events, including the 2020 college basketball postseason.

Moments after UT President Gregory Fenves announced the extension of spring break until March 30, UT Athletics announced that all home sporting events will be held without fans in attendance until March 22. 

“We regret that our fans will not be able to attend our events to support our teams, but this decision was made with the health and well-being of our campus community and fans as the top priority,” Texas athletics director Chris Del Conte said in a UT Athletics press release. 

This news comes hours after NCAA President Mark Emmert announced that the upcoming Division I men’s and women’s basketball tournaments will only allow “essential staff and limited family attendance,” in a statement on Wednesday afternoon. 

“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,” Emmert said in the statement. “This decision is in the best interest of public health, including that of coaches, administrators, fans and, most importantly, our student-athletes.” 

Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby also announced that conference tournament games will have “limited access” beginning Thursday, restricting teams to 125 tickets reserved for guests of student-athletes and staff members.

“The attempt is to absolutely minimize the number of people that are here but still find a way to conduct the events and get the opportunity to play the games,” Bowlsby said in a press conference, adding that the Big 12 board of directors voted unanimously to restrict fan attendance. 

Bowlsby said the Big 12 was advised by the University of Kansas Medical Center and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in taking sanitary precautions. 

“We don’t do this lightly,” Bowlsby said. “To have to take these steps is painful for everyone that’s involved, but these are unusual times.”

While there have only been more than 1,100 confirmed cases in the U.S. as of Wednesday afternoon, the quick spread of the virus has many taking precautionary actions. 

“The priority of the Big 12 Conference is to ensure the safety of our students, coaches, administrators, event staff and fans as we continue to monitor all relevant information on the COVID-19 virus and its impact on hosting events in public spaces,” the Big 12 said in a statement Tuesday afternoon. “We encourage those attending the games to closely follow the CDC hygiene and prevention recommendations relating to COVID-19.”

Bowlsby understands that limiting attendance at Big 12 games will result in “a substantial loss of revenue.” Fans who purchased tickets will go through a refund process.

Texas will take on Texas Tech at 11:30 a.m. Thursday in the quarterfinal of the Big 12 Tournament in Kansas City.