Could Coronavirus Cancel March Madness 2020? NCAA Remains Confident Tournament Will Go Ahead Despite Rise in U.S. Cases

The NCAA remains confident March Madness will go ahead as planned, despite the outbreak of coronavirus.

The men's tournament is set to get underway on March 17, with the women's tournament to follow three days later and the governing body of collegiate sports insisted no changes were planned as yet.

"The NCAA is committed to conducting its championships and events in a safe and responsible manner," Donald Remy, the NCAA chief operating officer, said in a statement on Tuesday night.

"Today we are planning to conduct our championships as planned, however, we are evaluating the COVID-19 situation daily and will make decisions accordingly."

Also known as COVID-19, coronavirus has killed more than 3,000 people since the outbreak began in Wuhan, a city located in China's central Hubei province, late last year.

As this graphic provided by Statista shows, the virus has spread to over 70 countries, including the U.S., where 108 cases have been confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)—48 of which involving people who were repatriated to America from the Diamond Princess cruise ship or on government-chartered flights from Wuhan.

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A Statista graphic shows the spread of the new coronavirus around the world as of early March 3, according to Johns Hopkins University. Statista

As of Tuesday, the 60 cases not imported from outside the U.S. were spread across 12 different states—Oregon, Washington, California, Arizona, Wisconsin, Illinois, New York, Georgia, Florida, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire.

Four of those states—Washington, New York, Florida, and California—are due to host the first and second rounds of the men's regional NCAA tournaments between March 19 to March 22.

California and New York will also host the West Regional and East Regional stages, from March 26 - 29, while Georgia will host the men's Final Four in the first week of April.

"We are actively monitoring COVID-19 in the United States and will make recommendations on competition based on the evolving medical protocols established by the CDC, NIH and state and local authorities," NCAA Chief Medical Officer Dr. Brian Hainline said. "We are in daily contact with the CDC and are advising leadership on the Association's response to this outbreak."

The basketball tournament is one of the NCAA's showpiece events and generates almost $1 billion a year in ticket sales, corporate sponsorships and TV revenues.

Last year, the tournament saw 688,753 spectators through the gates at an average of over 19,000 per game. The Final Four in Minneapolis was attended by a combined 144,773 spectators.

While the NCAA remains adamant the tournaments will go ahead as planned, it conceded the situation remained "fluid" and sudden changes to the circumstances could not be ruled out.

"The NCAA will make decisions that are first and foremost reflective of medical best practices and keeps the health and safety of student-athletes, administrators and fans as the number one priority," Remy added.

The organization also confirmed it had established an advisory panel comprising NCAA schools representatives, medical, public health, and epidemiology experts to monitor the situation.

The statement from the NCAA came on the same day as the athletic department of Stanford University announced its coronavirus task force had recommended "postponing or adjusting" events on campus from March 4 until April 15.

Meanwhile, the men's basketball team of Chicago State University will not travel to Seattle and Utah Valley for two scheduled Western Athletic Conference games this week due to the spread of COVID-19.

For the same reason, the school said its women's team will not host two games this week.

"Chicago State athletics views our decision as a reaffirmation of our commitment to the well-being, health and safety of our student athletes," the school's athletic director Elliott Charles said in a statement.

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Udoka Azubuike #35 of the Kansas Jayhawks gets fouled by Xavier Sneed #20 of the Kansas State Wildcats during the first half at Bramlage Coliseum on February 29 in Manhattan, Kansas. Peter G. Aiken/Getty