The National College Players Association, a nonprofit advocacy group for college athletes, suggested Saturday that the NCAA consider playing “March Madness” basketball games without audiences amid concerns about the coronavirus.
Such a seemingly unprecedented move could have a significant impact on Atlanta’s tourism and hospitality industries.
March Madness’ premier events, the NCAA Division I men’s basketball Final Four and national championship game, along with the Division II and Division III championship games, are scheduled to be played in early April at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
The Final Four semifinal games are scheduled for Saturday, April 4, with the lower-division championship games the next day (at State Farm Arena) and the Division I championship game two days later. The Division I games will be broadcast on TBS.
The NCPA, which is not a players union, also recommended canceling events, such as news conferences and meet-and-greets, that put players in close proximity to crowds. The Final Four Fan Fest will be held April 3-6 at the Georgia World Congress Center.
Coronavirus and college athlete health & safety: NCPA calls on @NCAA and colleges to act quickly to protect college athletes.
“… there is no time to waste.”
Read full statement:https://t.co/NmvyFjChSR
— NCPA (@NCPANOW) February 29, 2020
Greg Johnson, a spokesman for the NCAA, said, “In regards to coronavirus, the NCAA Sport Science Institute sent two memos recently to NCAA members directing schools and conference offices to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention resources on the issue.
“Otherwise, NCAA staff continues to prepare for all NCAA winter and spring championships, but we are keenly aware of coronavirus and will continue to monitor in coordination with state/local health authorities and the CDC.”
At a Saturday news conference, President Donald Trump said 22 people in the United States have the virus. No cases have been reported in Georgia.
Officials from the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have predicted the country will see more diagnoses of the virus, which was first identified in Wuhan, Hubei, China.
State officials say the risk for transmission here in Georgia remains low.
Still, Gov. Brian Kemp has named a task force of health, airport, school and emergency preparedness officials to prepare a plan to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in Georgia.
The 2020 NCAA Final Four will be played at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta with the National Semifinals on April 4 and the National Championship on April 6.