File this under March Sadness: One of the year’s most exciting sporting events will proceed as scheduled, though without crowds of cheering fans in the stands.
The NCAA announced on Wednesday that this month’s Division 1 men’s and women’s basketball tournaments will take place as scheduled but “with only essential staff and limited family” in attendance.
“While I understand how disappointing this is for all fans of our sports, my decision is based on the current understanding of how [the novel coronavirus’ is progressing i the United States,” NCAA president Mark Emmert said in his statement. “The decision is in the best interest of public health, including that of coaches, administrators, fans and, most importantly, our student-athletes.”
In addition, the Associated Press’ Ralph D. Russo reports that the Final Four could move to a smaller venue in Atlanta.
The men’s title game last year averaged 19.6 million viewers, along with a 5.3 rating among adults 18-49.
Concerns about coronavirus being spread among groups gathered indoors has similarly led late-night TV talk shows, game shows such as Jeopardy! and morning programs to also forgo in-studio audiences for the foreseeable future. Among sitcoms that tape in front of a studio audience, Warner Bros. TV productions (such as Mom) have been screening attendees before they enter, while CBS Television has not made a decision about the audience for The Neighborhood‘s final taping of the season.
Similarly, Survivor and The Amazing Race have both postponed production on their upcoming seasons.