INDIANAPOLIS (LEX 18) — March Madness is changing -- again -- due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The NCAA announced Monday its decision to relocate the 2021 Men's Basketball Championship preliminary rounds sites and consolidate all games to a single location.
The move comes in an effort to "enhance the safety and well-being of the event," according to a press release by the organization.
The NCAA added it is in "preliminary talks" with both the state of Indiana and the city of Indianapolis to serve as the potential host for all 68 teams. Indianapolis was originally slated to host the Men's Final Four this season. Now, the tournament will be set up in a "bubble" format, similar to what the NBA accomplished in Orlando over the summer.
This change directly affects the University of Kentucky and the Lexington community, as UK Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart is currently serving as the chair of the Division I Men's Basketball Committee. Additionally, Rupp Arena was originally scheduled as a host venue for the first and second rounds of this season's NCAA Tournament. Instead, Rupp Arena will host those rounds at a future date.
Barnhart released the following statement on the decision to relocate the tournament:
My committee colleagues and I did not come lightly to the difficult decision to relocate the preliminary rounds of the 2021 tournament, as we understand the disappointment 13 communities will feel to miss out on being part of March Madness next year. With the University of Kentucky slated to host first- and second-round games in March, this is something that directly impacts our school and community, so we certainly share in their regret. The committee and staff deeply appreciate the efforts of all the host institutions and conferences, and we look forward to bringing the tournament back to the impacted sites in future years.
The committee emphasized the importance of conducting the championship in a manageable geographic area that limits travel and provides a safe and controlled environment with competition and practice venues, medical resources and lodging for teams and officials all within proximity of one another.
“We have learned so much from monitoring other successful sporting events in the last several months, and it became clear it’s not feasible to manage this complex championship in so many different states with the challenges presented by the pandemic,” Dan Gavitt, NCAA senior vice president of basketball, said in the press release. “However, we are developing a solid plan to present a safe, responsible and fantastic March Madness tournament unlike any other we’ve experienced.”
NCAA President Mark Emmert said the committee and staff closely monitored the pandemic to develop potential contingency plans.
“The Board of Governors and my top priorities are to protect the health and well-being of college athletes while also maintaining their opportunity to compete at the highest level," he said. "These principles have guided the decision-making process as we continue to assess how to have a fair and safe championship experience.”
CBS Sports and Turner Sports will continue to distribute all 67 games of the tournament across TBS, CBS, TNT and truTV and their digital platforms.
Click here for a look at the new schedule for host cities and venues for the tournament moving forward, beginning in the 2021-22 season.
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