Before all the professional sports leagues and the NCAA itself were acting on the COVID-19 news, the Ivy League was ahead of the curve and canceled their tournament. While the Ivy League is apart of the NCAA, they, like all conferences, were allowed to make their own rulings on if their conference games would be played. It was initially shocking and met with some anger, but as things progressed with COVID-19, all eyes were on the NCAA. What are they going to do about their tournament?
On Wednesday the NCAA announced their initial plan which was to play the tournament games but in empty arenas. However that plan was derailed in less than 24 hours as major American sports leagues, including the NBA, NHL and MLB, hit the brakes on their seasons due to concerns about the pandemic.
Well today the NCAA called off both the men’s and women’s tournaments
“This decision is based on the evolving COVID-19 public health threat, our ability to ensure the events do not contribute to spread of the pandemic, and the impracticality of hosting such events at any time during this academic year given ongoing decisions by other entities,” the NCAA said in a statement Thursday.
The announcement abruptly ended the basketball season just days before March Madness was set to kick off. This mark the first time since 1939 where a NCAA champion will not be crowned. In the 70 years since Oregon won the first title, the popularity and size of the tournament has grown exponentially.
The Numbers Behind The Tournament
The three week tournament generates close to a billion dollars in revenue each year for the NCAA. That billion dollars will not be made for the NCAA without the tournament. However the NCAA is not the only corporation impacted by this. The betting world, in particular Las Vegas will take a blow this March. A year ago 47 million Americans were expected to bet a cumulative of $8.5 billion on the NCAA tournament. Because of the cancellation, the NCAA, Las Vegas, and the fans will miss out on all of it.
Impact on the Players
While this is very minuscule when you look at the big picture, there are players who will never get the chance to compete in March Madness. Countless one and done players will be in the NBA this time next season. But those special talents will be fine, they’re getting ti contuse their basketball career at the highest level. The players I feel for are the seniors.
For many of these players, this was it before they have to call it a career. One last run of games with your brothers/sisters for the past four years. There will not be that Cinderella story like Steph Curry at Davidson. We won’t get to see a freshman carry his team to a championship like Carmelo Anthony did at Syracuse. There won’t be a cutting of the net with confetti falling from the ceiling on top of the champion team.
It Was The Only Decision
While the tournament will be greatly missed, this was the only move for the NCAA to make. The idea to play in empty arenas was never going to work. Students were sent home from these campuses. They were not allowed to attend classes, so why allow them to travel to different states to play a contact sport? The health of the student-athletes had to be a priority, even over the billion dollar revenue. If they had proceeded to play the tournament after all other sporting leagues suspended play, the optic would be terrible. The NCAA would become more of a villain and cash cow, gaining even more heat for putting the students at risk.