NCAA, AAC announce protocol changes for tournaments due to COVID-19


Joseph Barringhaus

Wichita State fans celebrate during the second half of the game against Lipscomb on April 2, 2019 at Madison Square Garden in New York. (Photo by Joseph Barringhaus/The Sunflower).

*Update: AAC Commissioner Mike Aresco announced at 7:45 p.m. Wednesday that the conference tournament in Fort Worth will limit attendance to “student-athletes, coaches, essential staff, team and conference staff, ESPN personnel, credentialed media, and immediate family members of the 12 participating teams.”

Aresco’s full statement:


FORT WORTH, Texas – NCAA President Mark Emmert announced on Wednesday that the upcoming Men’s and Women’s NCAA Tournaments will not allow fans to be in attendance for games due to the COVID-19 virus.

The NCAA decided to cut the fans from the game to try and contain the virus from spreading further. So far, only ‘essential staff’ and limited family will be allowed into the event. A decision on allowing media members into the games has not been made.

“The NCAA continues to assess the impact of COVID-19 in consultation with public health officials and our COVID-19 advisory panel,” Emmert said. “Based on their advice and my discussions with the NCAA Board of Governors, I have made the decision to conduct our upcoming championship events, including the Division I men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, with only essential staff and limited family attendance.

“While I understand how disappointing this is for all fans of our sports, my decision is based on the current understanding of how COVID-19 is progressing in the United States.”

The announcement from the organization came after individual conferences started cracking down with their own regulations. The Big 12 is placing limitations for each team to provide 125 tickets each per game during their conference tournament in Kansas City. The tickets will go to the guests of the student athletes. No other fans, or cheerleaders, will be allowed in the arena. The Big Ten followed the Big 12 with the same precautions.

With Wichita State starting play in Fort Worth for the American Athletic Conference Tournament this weekend, questions have raised. The AAC announced their own restrictions on Wednesday as well. Media members will no longer be allowed locker room access during the tournament – players will still be made available for a short period of time after the games.

For the Shockers themselves, the spirit squad and band will not be in attendance for the tournament. They were on the road to Fort Worth – in Oklahoma – when they received a call to turn around and return to Wichita.

At the moment, fans are still going to be allowed into Dickies Arena for the games, but there will be additional hand sanitizer stations, two quarantine rooms for those showing signs of the coronavirus, and educational materials around the arena. All concession and parking attendant employees will be wearing gloves. The condiments at the concession stand will be in packets rather than jugs.

The arena staff will be sanitizing key areas in-between each game.

“We recognize the opportunity to compete in an NCAA national championship is an experience of a lifetime for the students and their families,” Emmert said. “Today, we will move forward and conduct championships consistent with the current information and will continue to monitor and make adjustments as needed.”

WSU starts play in the AAC Tournament on Friday at 2 p.m.