We have finally reached the point where at once inconceivable has become the inevitable. Just four days ago a poll showed that the vast majority of Xavier Nation figured that there was nothing to worry about from a potential pandemic impacting the NCAA tournament.
NCAA has already put some DIII tournament games behind closed doora due to Covid-19. Are you confident the DI tournament will go off as planned?— Banners on the Parkway (@BannersParkway) March 6, 2020
Now, less than a week later, the outlook has changed. As Europe starts to come to terms with the rapid spread of coronavirus many of their top flight leagues have either canceled games or are playing them behind closed doors and in front of either no or very limited attendants. The first example in the United States was Utah Valley University not traveling to Seattle for games. Things escalated from there with DIII games at Johns Hopkins being played behind closed doors. When Austin canceled SXSW to the tune of $356 million in economic loss, it was clear things had become entirely more serious.
Now, Covid-19 is almost certainly going to impact the NCAA tournament. Here in Ohio Governor Mike DeWine started with this announcement “ATHLETICS: For indoor events, we are asking for no events with spectators other than the athletes, parents, and others essential to the game. Right now, outdoor events can continue. #COVID19.” That means that the play-in games in Dayton, the Cleveland first and second round games, and the MAC tournament could be impacted. The MAC took little time to announce that their tournament would only be played in front of family and credentialed members of each school and the media.
While Ohio, yes, Ohio, was for once in front of something for once, it didn’t take long for dominoes to start falling. Late Tuesday the governor of Washington announced that gatherings of more than 250 people would be restricted, including sports and concerts. That would knock out another first and second round site for the NCAA tournament, leaving six untouched. Another site is in Sacramento, where there has already been at least one death from coronavirus. North Carolina hosts first and second round games; North Carolina has declared a state of emergency. On and on it goes.
So what does this mean? Best case scenario for now seems to be that the tournament will go on in front of either diminished or non-existent crowds. There is now no chance that things will go on with business as usual. Worst case scenario remains that the entire tournament is canceled. While this isn’t currently on the cards the NCAA says they “are consulting with public health officials and our COVID-19 advisory panel, who are leading experts in epidemiology and public health, and will make decisions in the coming days,” so complete cancellation isn’t off the table.
No matter what happens, March Madness will not be the same tournament you are used to seeing. These things happen in life. As spectators it would be the height of tone deaf selfishness to complain that the ambiance on your television screen isn’t what you like. At the very least, workers in a gig economy are losing a large portion of their income, cities (including our beloved Cleveland) are taking a huge economic hit, and human life is being lost. This isn’t what anyone wants, but come 2021 we hope to all be back watching.
Listen to our discussion on this and whether Coach Steele is the man to lead Xavier forward in our newest episode of Banter on the Parkway.
Please don’t comment with any absurdity about how the seasonal flu kills more people and nothing gets cancelled for that. That’s in blatant disregard of the facts, the threat, and the issue at hand. Just have some feel.