By David Amirsadri
The NCAA’s recent cancellation of March Madness due to the novel coronavirus is a significant development, even if you’re not a sports fan. For American athletics, the grind to a screeching halt helps illustrate the gravity of the present situation
Since late February, the NCAA has faced pressure to adopt measures designed to protect public health in the wake of COVID-19. The National College Players Association, a group representing the interests of college athletes, called on the NCAA to cancel press conferences and meet-and-greets to prevent the formation of large groups. Additionally, the group called for a ban on audience attendance during games, noting that “a serious discussion about holding competitions without an audience present” should take place.
The NCAA, to their credit, was receptive to these concerns. A task force was assembled, and featured collaboration between the NCAA and the CDC in an effort to prepare for all potential scenarios. NCAA Chief Medical Officer Brian Hainline likened the group’s efforts to preparation for a hurricane “not knowing whether it’s going to fizzle out or be category 5.”
Meanwhile, many teams cancelled games that would have taken place in cities affected by the novel coronavirus. The University of Missouri, Kansas City (UMKC) and the Chicago State University, for instance, cancelled their Seattle games, citing Seattle’s current struggles with COVID-19. Additionally, certain teams, like those from Stanford University in California and Johns Hopkins University in Maryland, limited audience attendance at games.
Thus, with major athletic teams at Kansas and Duke– among other universities– cancelling events, the NCAA’s response came as no surprise. The group announced that March Madness, as well as Winter and Spring championships, would be cancelled. In a statement, the NCAA noted that their decision was “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.” This comes in the wake of other major sporting leagues, like the MLB and the NHL cancelling their own events. With this decision comes a significant loss of revenue for the NCAA, and for the cities that would have hosted the games.
We can all applaud organizations like the NCAA and the National College Players Association for taking a stand in the midst of this present pandemic. Leadership from private sector actors, in the form of both organizations and individuals, is of the utmost necessity during the current situation.