Amid concerns over the coronavirus outbreak, now labeled a pandemic by the World Health Organization, the Big Ten Conference announced Wednesday night that, starting Thursday, it will limit attendance at its men’s basketball tournament in Indianapolis to student-athletes, coaches, event staff, essential team and conference staff, TV network partners, credentialed media, and immediate family members of the participating teams.
Additionally, all Big Ten winter and spring sport competitions, including championship and tournament events, will have limited attendance.
“The main priority of the Big Ten Conference is to ensure the safety of our student-athletes, coaches, administrators, fans and media as we continue to monitor all relevant information on the COVID-19 virus on a daily basis," the conference announced in a statement.
The news was announced hours after NCAA President Mark Emmert said NCAA Division I basketball tournament games will not be open to the general public because of concerns about the spread of coronavirus.
Emmert said in a statement Wednesday that 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. The decision comes after the NCAA's COVID-19 advisory panel of medical experts recommended against playing sporting events open to the general public.
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 ordered to restrict spectator access to indoor sporting events.
The Big Ten tournament is scheduled to start Wednesday evening and conclude Sunday.
In a previous statement Wednesday, the Big Ten said it would continue the men’s basketball tournament as planned. Fans in Indianapolis were allowed to attend the opening-round games Wednesday night involving Northwestern, Minnesota, Nebraska and Indiana.
Earlier Wednesday, Bankers Life Fieldhouse, which hosts the Big Ten tournament, said in a statement to the Indy Star that “currently scheduled events at Bankers Life Fieldhouse will continued as scheduled for all ticketed guests.” Precautionary measures will also be put in place, such as cleaning and disinfecting seats, additional hand sanitizers and restricting concession hawkers to the concourse.
The conference’s decision to change media access follows announcements by a string of professional sports leagues and college conferences, as well as local governments, this week.
The Mid-American Conference and The Big West Conference have announced restrictions on attendance for its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments this week.
On Tuesday, the Ivy League announced it was canceling its men’s and women’s basketball tournament, which was scheduled to take place at Harvard University. The Ivy League on Wednesday announced it is canceling spring athletics competitions for the rest of the academic year.
The Maryland men’s basketball team has a double-bye and is scheduled to play its first game Friday.
Big Ten quarterfinals
NO. 3 SEED MARYLAND vs. TBD
Friday, approximately 9 p.m.
TV: Big Ten Network
Radio: 105.7 FM, 980 AM