Thursday, March 12

NCAA, B1G, & Others Should Suspend Tourneys Right Now

Emmert's and Warren's decisions to continue play in nearly empty arenas is unsafe (and greedy)

Ray Blehar

March 12, 2020, 10:20 AM EDT, Updated 11:00 AM & 1:26 PM EDT; Updated March 13, 2020, 12:45 PM EDT

Last night, the National Basketball Association (NBA) suspended play after it was learned that Utah Jazz's Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus. 

The league really had no choice, given that it takes approximately two weeks to develop symptoms and in that time frame the Jazz played (and possibly infected) the Boston Celtics, Washington Wizards, Cleveland Cavaliers, New York Knicks, Detroit Pistons, and Toronto Raptors.

All of those teams and players are possibly infected and so are their opponents from the last two weeks.

The NBA was absolutely, 100 percent correct to shut it down and wait until the virus subsides to resume play.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the Big Ten and the NCAA who have decided to take the risk that no athletes are infected and to continue play in nearly empty arenas.

The health risk to athletes is real. 

At Wednesday night's late game between Nebraska and Indiana, Husker coach Fred Hoiberg fell ill and left the game in the second half.   After the game, the Husker team was quarantined in the locker room until after midnight.

Hoiberg was later tested and found to be suffering from the flu.  However, there was no mention of whether he was tested for coronavirus.

All it takes is one confirmed case of a player, coach, or staffer to knock out a swath of teams, just as it did in the NBA.  March Madness could quickly become March Meekness.

The NCAA recognized the situation is fluid and reserved the option to change course per the direction of its advisory panel of medical experts.

“Given the fluid situation, the advisory panel will meet regularly and provide valuable insight and expertise as the Association navigates this complicated public health challenge.”  

While March Madness is an American tradition, the novelty of it doesn't come from the calendar.  It comes from the excitement of filled arenas and watching great competition.   If the virus infects NCAA athletes, neither is possible.

The NCAA's and B1G's decision appears to be a head scratcher -- until you look at the money.  And in big time college athletics money is television contracts and advertising revenue.    So while the NCAA and Conferences will get their money up front, local businesses will lose that revenue forever.

Pushing back the tournament a month or two is the better option, not just for health reasons but for economic reasons.

I'll take a healthy May Madness that profits many over an unhealthy March Meekness that only profits the NCAA and the Conferences.

Update:  The Big Ten canceled its tournament at 11:43 AM EST

Update:  The NCAA canceled its tournaments at 4:07 PM EST

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