A top NCAA executive says representatives of the association’s top-level schools will be presented with a “very robust set of proposals” concerning changes to rules governing athletes’ ability to make money from their names, images and likenesses.

Cedric Golden

American-Statesman Staff

Column

Golden: NCAA announcement banning fans is only the beginning

Posted March 11th, 2020

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Story highlights
  • The NCAA announcement of fans not being allowed at the NCAA Tournament may only be the beginning.
  • The coronavirus’ tentacles have made our world much smaller and forced us to confront our mortality as a people.
  • March Madness will go on but the throngs of fans that make this event the only major championship that fails to disappoint annually, will not be part of the landscape.

It had to happen.

What choice did the NCAA have?

President Mark Emmert made the right decision. Prudence over popularity.

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Safety over packed houses. 
March Madness will take on a new face, an apparition-like quality that we will hopefully one day remember as an isolated dark period in the history of our planet.

Mark Emmert, president of the NCAA, announced Wednesday that fans would not be allowed at NCAA  men’s and women’s  tournament games amid coronavirus safety concerns.  (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

The coronavirus’ tentacles have made our world much smaller. As the medical community races to quell this pandemic, the games we love to watch have taken a real hit. Sports aren’t nearly as important as the safety of the people who watch them and play them, but the impact of sporting events has long been valued as one of the most wonderful heirlooms handed down by previous generations.

While we understand the need to be safe, it hurts to see this wonderful event and others like it take a hit at what is usually one of the best times of the year to be a sports fan.

Worse yet, this feels like it’s much closer to just getting started than reaching a conclusion.

March Madness will go on, but the throngs of fans that make this event the only major championship that fails to disappoint annually, will not be part of the landscape. They will be home with the rest of us watching the NCAAs on television and online where viewership records will reach unprecedented levels.

As of Wednesday, most conference tournaments were still a go, a decision probably made because fans were already in those cities viewing games, but the fluid nature of this pandemic could lead the powers that be to take it a step further and postpone the NCAAs or cancel it altogether.

Emmert is also giving serious consideration to moving the Final Four from the Mercedes-Benz Arena to a smaller venue in Atlanta, according to the Associated Press.

Either way, we all lose because we lose out on one of the best sporting events in American sports, when in its correct form.

On a slightly cynical level, I couldn’t help but think of the visual of an Ivy League-educated lawyer standing up in that Indianapolis room to mention the possible avalanche of lawsuits that would ensue from fans attracting the virus under the NCAA’s watch.

All things considered, the NCAA couldn’t take this chance, morally or fiscally.

It will soon be tournament time and the seats will be watching.

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