Part of the charm of March Madness is having so many games happening across the country. However, having the tournament in one location is much better than not having it at all.
Due to the consistent and growing threat of COVID-19, the NCAA announced Monday the 2021 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament, or March Madness, will be held in one geographic location, per release.
In the NCAA release, the Division I Men’s Basketball Committee has worked on a contingency plan to conduct a “safe and healthy March Madness for all participants for the 2021 championship.”
The NCAA staff is in preliminary talks with the state of Indiana and the city of Indianapolis to move the 68-team tournament to the state capital, where the Final Four was already scheduled to take place April 3-5, 2021.
This change would take away hosting privileges for 13 host sites, including Dayton, where the First Four takes place every year.
“My committee colleagues and I did not come lightly to the difficult decision to relocate the preliminary rounds of the 2021 tournament, as we understand the disappointment 13 communities will feel to miss out on being part of March Madness next year,” said Mitch Barnhart, chair of the Division I Men’s Basketball Committee and University of Kentucky athletics director.
“With the University of Kentucky slated to host first- and second-round games in March, this is something that directly impacts our school and community, so we certainly share in their regret. The committee and staff deeply appreciate the efforts of all the host institutions and conferences, and we look forward to bringing the tournament back to the impacted sites in future years.”
The committee emphasized the importance of hosting the tournament in one geographic location to provide a “safe and controlled environment with competition and practice venues, medical resources and lodging for teams and officials all within proximity of one another.”
“We have learned so much from monitoring other successful sporting events in the last several months, and it became clear it’s not feasible to manage this complex championship in so many different states with the challenges presented by the pandemic,” said Dan Gavitt, NCAA Senior Vice President of Basketball. “However, we are developing a solid plan to present a safe, responsible and fantastic March Madness tournament unlike any other we’ve experienced.”
“The committee and staff have thoughtfully monitored the pandemic to develop potential contingency plans,” said Mark Emmert, NCAA President. “The Board of Governors and my top priorities are to protect the health and well-being of college athletes while also maintaining their opportunity to compete at the highest level. These principles have guided the decision-making process as we continue to assess how to have a fair and safe championship experience.”
Although this move would take the First Four games (or Opening Round) away from UD Arena for the first time since 2000, the close proximity between Dayton and Indianapolis (2-hour drive) would allow Flyers fans to easily attend the tournament if fans are allowed.