NCAA Rolls Out Plan for March Madness Bubble
The March Madness tournament, which includes 67 Division I college men’s basketball games, will take place in one “controlled environment” in and around Indianapolis, the National Collegiate Athletic Association announced Monday. The association, which is headquartered in the Indiana city, decided in November to downsize the tournament from 13 sites to one due to the coronavirus pandemic and the risk of teams spreading the virus through interstate travel.
A local health provider will test players, coaches and other staff members and officials for COVID-19 throughout the tournament, which spans from mid-March to early April, an NCAA press release said. The medical protocols developed by the NCAA for the tournament were approved by the county health department and include housing all the teams in hotels that are directly connected to a practice facility, the release said.
Each floor of the hotels will be dedicated to one team, and they will have “secure transportation” to the six tournament game locations, most of which are in Indianapolis, the release said. Two locations are outside the city; Mackey Arena is on the Purdue University campus in West Lafayette, Ind., and Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall is at Indiana University, Bloomington.
Dan Gavitt, NCAA senior vice president of basketball, said in the release that the tournament will be “complicated and difficult” to execute.
“The 2021 version of March Madness will be one to remember, if for no other reason than the uniqueness of the event,” he said. “With the direction of the Men’s Basketball Committee, we are making the most of the circumstances the global pandemic has presented.”
While a few family members of athletes and coaches will be able to attend games, officials are still determining the “feasibility” of permitting fans, the release said. Leading up to the tournament, the NCAA will advertise a public health campaign called “Mask Madness” to promote mask wearing and social distancing, the release said. The association has partnered with the state of Indiana to distribute hundreds of thousands of March Madness-branded masks to residents, The Indianapolis Star reported.