ATLANTA — The NCAA president announced Wednesday that all upcoming championship events will be held without fans, including the Division I men's and women's basketball tournaments. The men's Final Four was scheduled in Atlanta on April 4 and 6.
"The NCAA continues to assess the impact of COVID-19 in consultation with public health officials and our COVID-19 advisory panel. Based on their advice and my discussions with the NCAA Board of Governors, 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," NCAA President Mark Emmert said.
The Atlanta Sports Council suggests that this could possibly change.
"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," he added.
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.
The Final Four was set to be played at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. It is unclear if the games will still be held at that stadium, or a smaller arena, such as State Farm Arena. The Division II and III championship games are going be played that same weekend at State Farm Arena.
The events surrounding the Final Four in Atlanta were to be similar to the Super Bowl, with fan fests, concerts and events taking place from April 3 to April 6 across the city.
A statement from Mayor Bottoms supported the decision by the NCAA, echoing that public health and safety are the priority.
"While we are disappointed, we respect the decision of the NCAA," Bottoms said, while encouraging Atlantans and visitors to keep those in the service and hospitality industries in mind.
"Continue to patronize Atlanta businesses and tip a little extra to ease any burdens this may place on the families of those industries," she said.
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."
The NCAA has posted on its website what people can do for ticket refunds.
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