The NCAA announced a contingency plan for the 2021 Men’s Basketball Championship tournament on Monday that includes all preliminary rounds being played in one central location.
The NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Committee said it has begun talks with officials in Indiana to relocate all 13 predetermined round sites to Indianapolis and the surrounding metropolitan area as a result of the pandemic.
“In recent weeks, (the committee) has engaged in a thorough contingency planning process to determine the most effective way to conduct a safe and healthy March Madness for all participants for the 2021 championship,” the NCAA said on its website.
“Through these discussions, it became apparent to the committee that conducting the championship at 13 preliminary round sites spread throughout the country would be very difficult to execute in the current pandemic environment.”
The Final Four was already set to take place in Indianapolis during early April but the preliminary rounds were spread across the country with regionals in Minneapolis, Denver, Memphis, Tennessee and New York City. The First Four was to take place in Dayton, Ohio.
“Trying to run an event of 68 teams, 67 games over the course of three weeks in a safe and responsible way really needed to be managed in a much controlled, singular environment,” NCAA senior vice president of basketball Dan Gavitt said.
The NCAA stopped short of saying it was planning a bubble for the tournament but the scars of last year’s cancellation, which resulted in the loss of $ 375 million in revenue, may push them toward that option.
“The committee and staff have thoughtfully monitored the pandemic to develop potential contingency plans,” NCAA President Mark Emmert said. “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.”
The season is slated to start on Nov. 25. A decision on fan attendance has not been made.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.