As a Result of Coronavirus, The NCAA Stands To Lose Nearly A Billion Dollars By Canceling March Madness

The NCAA is faced with the decision to cancel its annual men's and women's basketball tournaments because of the rapid spread of COVID-19, also known as coronavirus. Shutting down the tournament falls in line with the NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball suspending their seasons, and after every Division I basketball tournament to be played out this weekend was canceled altogether.

Canceling the tournaments could be a last-ditch effort, as the NCAA could potentially suspend, or postpone, the tournament until a later date. That would mean the only madness happening this March would off the court.

This comes one day after NCAA president Mark Emmert announced that the men's and women's tournaments would still be played, but with "only essential staff and limited family attendance."

The NCAA changed its tune on Thursday after every remaining Division I conference basketball tournament was canceled, and after heavyweight basketball programs Duke and Kansas announced all of its sports programs were canceling all upcoming athletic travel, which would include the NCAA tournament.

The 32 conference tournaments determine automatic qualifiers to the NCAA tournament. A little more than one-third of them had already finished, and the bulk of the remaining tournaments were scheduled to tip off Thursday.

For some teams like Florida State, Texas and Texas Tech, the players and coaches were sent to their locker rooms during warmups prior to their quarterfinal games Thursday morning, and the Big East canceled its tournament during halftime of the St. John's-Creighton game.

On Thursday, one by one, each basketball conference still playing their postseason tournaments canceled their events for both men's and women's games. The Big Ten was the first major conference to cancel, followed by the SEC, Big 12, Conference USA, MAC, WAC, AAC, ACC and the Pac-12. The last conference to cancel was the Sun Belt. In all, 14 conferences canceled their tournaments on Thursday.

The NCAA remained mum well into afternoon, and that's perhaps the money involved in the top event of the year for the league.

The NCAA men's tournament is not only the governing body's top show piece, but it's a lucrative bell cow. The men's basketball tournament, dubbed March Madness, brings in nearly $1 billion in revenue for the three-week tournament.

Money is brought in not just from fans attending the game, but there are lavish TV deals, TV advertising and corporate sponsorships that drive revenue, which is distributed back to the participating schools and conferences. The NCAA keeps 4 percent of that, which last year would have equated to $37.3 million—just from the men's basketball tournament

The NCAA men's tournament posted $933 million in revenue from last year's tournament, according to Investopedia. The NCAA makes more than $850 million annually in TV deals for basketball, according to CNBC.

NCAA Basketball
A view of team bench seats during the 2017 NCAA Men's Final Four Semifinals at University of Phoenix Stadium on April 1, 2017 in Glendale, Arizona. Photo by Lance King/Getty Images

The coronavirus was first detected in Wuhan City, which is in the Hubei Province of China. The virus has affected more than 120,000 people worldwide and is responsible for more than 4,200 deaths worldwide, mostly in China. The virus is starting to spread more rapidly within the United States, with more than 1,000 cases being reported, and 33 deaths in the United States, according to research by Johns Hopkins University. The virus has led to less people traveling through airports, or aspiring to be among large crowds.

At least one player on the NBA's Utah Jazz has been diagnosed with coronavirus, and on Wednesday night, The National Basketball Association (NBA) suspended its season until further notice because of coronavirus.

"The NBA is suspending game play following the conclusion of Wednesday's schedule of games until further notice. The NBA will use this hiatus to determine next steps for moving forward in regard to the coronavirus pandemic," the NBA stated on its website.

Major League Baseball on Thursday announced it was suspending its activities until further notice, and the National Hockey League made a similar announcement less than an hour later.

As sports events have been canceled from coast to coast, some will still take place. The Texas high school boys state basketball championships in San Antonio tried to continue as planned, but with a limited audience. However, during halftime of a Class 3A semifinal on Thursday, the University Interscholastic League suspended the remainder of its annual tournament.

The @uiltexas announced at halftime of Madison’s 3A semifinal that it is suspending the rest of the boys basketball state tournament after conclusion of 3A semifinals because of coronavirus. Just started second half with Madison leading Coldspring-Oakhurst 41-31.@SportsDayHS

— Greg Riddle (@DMNGregRiddle) March 12, 2020