Update March 12, 2020, 4:50 p.m. EST:
March Sadness is on, folks. One day after the NCAA originally announced the Division I men’s and women’s basketball tournaments would take place — just without an audience present — the NCAA changed its tune. March Madness won’t be taking place at all.
“Today, NCAA President Mark Emmert and the Board of Governors canceled the Division I men’s and women’s 2020 basketball tournaments, as well as all remaining winter and spring NCAA championships,” the NCAA announced in a statement.
— NCAA (@NCAA) March 12, 2020
I had originally said March Sadness would mostly be averted. Mea culpa — but NCAA maxima culpa. It remains unclear exactly why the NCAA decided it could not host March Madness at all, but the announcement came after the NBA and the NHL decided to cancel their seasons and the MLB announced it would suspend spring training. The entire sports world seems to be taking a hiatus.
It seems nothing is immune from the spread of coronavirus.
Next week, St. Patrick’s Day will mark the beginning of the college basketball phenomenon known as March Madness. Although for many avid fans, this year’s version may well be termed “March Sadness.”
No, the National Collegiate Athletic Association won’t be canceling the tournament — thank God! — but the games will mostly take place in front of a virtual audience. Attendance at the March Madness tournament will be severely limited — so televised audience reactions will take a big hit.
“Based on [public health officials’] 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,” NCAA President Mark Emmert announced in a statement. “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.”
“This decision is in the best interest of public health, including that of coaches, administrators, fans and, most importantly, our student-athletes. We recognize the opportunity to compete in an NCAA national championship is an experience of a lifetime for the students and their families.”
— NCAA (@NCAA) March 11, 2020
Radio host Connor Happer predicted that “March Sadness” will be trademarked by close of business on Thursday.
Today: People start saying 'March Sadness'
Tomorrow: NCAA trademarks 'March Sadness'
— Connor Happer (@ConnorHapper) March 11, 2020
While this announcement will undoubtedly disappoint the Americans who live near big college and university campuses, it is good news for most of the March Madness audience that the tournament will still be held, at all. If the quarantines continue, Americans can still watch college basketball in the safety of their own homes. March Sadness will mostly be averted.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.