Growing COVID-19 concerns close Big 12, NCAA basketball tournaments to fans

The Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri, is the home for the 2020 Big 12 men's basketball tournament. Due to growing concerns regarding the spread of COVID-19, fans will be barred from both the men's and women's tournaments. (Olivia Bergmeier | Collegian Media Group)

Amid growing concerns of the spread of COVID-19, the NCAA and the Big 12 Conference will not permit fans into NCAA tournaments.

NCAA president Mark Emmert said in a statement on Wednesday the decision was not made lightly.

“I have made the decision to conduct our upcoming championship events, including the Division I men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, with only essential staff and limited family attendance,” Emmert said. “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.”

In addition to concerns for the health of the public, Emmert also cited the health and wellbeing of student athletes as a variable in the decision-making process.

Although games played on Wednesday night had spectators, the Big 12 Tournament in Kansas City will not allow fans into anymore games.

Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said the “limited access” to both the men’s and women’s tournaments will leave just 125 tickets per team for each game.

According to the Kansas City Star, it will be the first time the NCAA basketball tournament will be played without fans present.

My name is Kaylie McLaughlin and I'm the ex-managing editor and audience engagement manager of the Collegian. Previously, I've been the editor-in-chief and the news editor. In the past, I have also contributed to the Royal Purple Yearbook and KKSU-TV. Off-campus, you can find my bylines in the Wichita Eagle, the Shawnee Mission Post and KSNT News. I grew up just outside of Kansas City in Shawnee, Kansas. I’m a senior in digital journalism with a minor in French and a secondary focus in international and area studies. As a third-generation K-Stater, I bleed purple and my goal is to serve the Wildcat community with accurate coverage.