NCAA cancels March Madness tournament

Wills Layton and Stephen Wagner

Editor’s note: This story is part of The Daily Texan’s coverage of how coronavirus concerns are affecting UT-Austin. Read the rest of our coverage here.

The NCAA has officially canceled its annual March Madness tournament because of increased concerns about the spread of COVID-19. The novel coronavirus caused the Power 5 conferences to cancel their conference tournaments Thursday morning.

“The decision is based on the evolving COVID-19 public health threat, our ability to ensure the events do not contribute to spread of the pandemic, and the impracticality of hosting such events at any time during this academic year given ongoing decisions by other entities,” the NCAA said in a statement Thursday afternoon.

The tournament was initially scheduled to be played with only essential staff and personnel, but the NCAA announced the tournament would be canceled entirely after the Power Five conferences canceled their conference tournaments Thursday morning. The statement also said that all remaining winter and spring NCAA championships would be canceled.

Thirteen conferences had already canceled their conference tournaments along with four professional sports leagues that indefinitely suspended their seasons. Major League Baseball announced that spring training is suspended and that Opening Day will be delayed by at least two weeks. The National Hockey League has indefinitely suspended its season as well. 

Athletic departments from multiple universities had already announced the suspension of all athletic participation and travel, including West Virginia University, Duke University and Kansas University. The Mountain West Conference announced Thursday morning that it was suspending all spring sports until further notice.

“Our highest priority is to ensure the safety and well-being of our student-athletes, coaches and staff,” Kansas athletic director Jeff Long said in a statement. 

The NCAA has not yet set a timetable for universities to resume athletic activity.