Three Texas fans dot seating sections at the Frank Erwin Center during a first round NCAA National Invitation Tournament college basketball game between Texas and South Dakota State on Tuesday, March 19, 2019, in Austin, Texas. [NICK WAGNER/AMERICAN-STATESMAN]

Kirk Bohls

American-Statesman Staff

Column

Bohls: Even if it is an over-reaction, the NCAA wisely chooses to shut public out

Posted March 11th, 2020

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Story highlights
  • It’s the smart thing to do. The risk is too great.
  • Hopefully, we’ll look back on this time as an absurd over-reaction, but there’s no guarantee of that.
  • The NCAA should even consider, after the first weekend of action pares the field down from 68 to 16 teams, moving all the remaining games to one location to limit travel and exposure and better ensure the health and safety of the players and coaches. 

The NCAA did the prudent thing.

It canceled the fans.

With the outbreak of the coronavirus spreading fear and uncertainty in this country, the NCAA Board of Governors did the right thing by announcing it would close the NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments to the public and hold these pivotal, in some cases career-altering games in relative seclusion outside of necessary staff and limited family.

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It’s the smart thing to do.

The risk is too great.

One Shining Moment on April 6 ultimately will become One Secluded Moment.

Hopefully, we’ll look back on this time as an absurd over-reaction, but there’s no guarantee of that. So we should tip our hats to those in charge who put their responsibility to the public ahead of reasons to sell T-shirts and Cokes and conduct business as usual. There’s nothing usual about these times. 

Erring on the side of caution is no error at all.

The NCAA should even consider, after the first weekend of action pares the field down from 68 to 16 teams, moving all the remaining games to one location to limit travel and exposure and better ensure the health and safety of the players and coaches. 

One possibility would be Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium, which is already the host site for the Final Four, although NCAA president Mark Emmert said that event could be moved into a smaller venue in that city. I’m not really sure why the size of the arena would matter.

There’s plenty of time to dissect the decision, but know that these are uncharted waters in today’s world, and administrators may not get any do-overs.

Games played in a vacuum like these will undoubtedly help the power conference teams because the first weekend of basketball historically belongs to the underdogs, fueled by their one chance on the big stage and fed by the moment amid the full-throated cheers of an adoring crowd. Don’t bet on a 16 seed this year.

Maybe we’ll be privy to coaches’ charges to their players and their insults to mistaken referees. 

Television ratings will go through the roof of these unfilled arenas as starved as America will be for a deserving distraction from the craziness and chaos.

The madness has already begun in March, and we haven’t played a game.

And there will be those who will be mad by these decisions. But in many ways this decision was made for the NCAA.

In these days of heightened anxiety and fear, it just makes sense.

 

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