On Thursday, five of the Power 5 college basketball conferences opted to cancel their respective conference tournaments in the wake of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. The ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, and SEC suspended all play effective immediately and canceled their conference tournaments. The Big East started a game on Thursday but suspended play at halftime before canceling their tournament. Regular season winners will earn automatic bids to March Madness … if there’s still a March Madness.
Other college basketball conferences that canceled their tournaments include the American (AAC), Atlantic 10, Conference USA (C-USA), MAC, America East, Big Sky, Big West, and WAC.
The Big East is the lone major college basketball conference to continue their conference tournament on Thursday. The Big East tournament, hosted at Madison Square Garden in New York City, made a decision on Wednesday to play games without a crowd. Only players, coaches, staff, and a small member of family members would be permitted to attend Big East tournament games at MSG. The St. John’s and Creighton game tipped off at Noon ET, but suspended at halftime.
On Wednesday, the NCAA made a decision to continue on with its upcoming March Madness basketball tournament. However, the games will be played without fans or an audience in empty arenas.
On Tuesday, the Ivy League became the first college basketball conference to take an aggressive and proactive approach to combat coronavirus. The Ivy League canceled the Ivy Madness conference tournament.
Mayor Scare, Big Ten Pulled the Plug
The Big Ten experienced a tremendous scare last night. Fred Hoiberg, aka “The Mayor” and head coach of the Nebraska Cornhuskers, looked visibly ill on the sidelines of the Big Ten conference tournament. Hoiberg checked into a local hospital to undergo testing while the Cornhuskers were quarantined in the locker room. The hospital released Hoiberg, who had a regular bout of influenza. The rest of the team finally got to leave as well.
On Thursday morning, Big Ten officials made the decision to cancel their conference tournament.
“The Big Ten Conference will use this time to work with the appropriate medical experts and institutional leadership to determine next steps for moving forward in regard to the COVID-19 pandemic,” it said in a statement. “The main priority of the Big Ten Conference continues to be the health, safety, and wellness of our student-athletes, coaches, administrators, fans, and media as we continue to monitor all developing and relevant information on the COVID-19 virus.”
“A week or so ago, we actually formed a Big Ten Infectious Disease Committee,” Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren said in a press conference. “We have 14 incredible academic institutions. One of the things I want to make sure that I do is rely on the information and guidance from individuals in our conference.”
The Rest of the Power 5
Pac-12 officials announced their decision to cancel their conference tournament due to coronavirus shortly after 9am PT.
“The Pac-12 Conference has made the decision to cancel the remainder of the Pac-12 Men’s Basketball Tournament, and all Pac-12 sport competitions and Pac-12 Championship events, effective immediately, until further notice,” the conference said in a statement. “This decision has been made in consultation with our member universities in an effort to limit the spread of the virus, and in the interest of the health and safety of our student-athletes, campus personnel, working, and event personnel, and all those who attend Pac-12 events.”
The SEC made a decision to suspend all athletic activities until March 30.
“Based on the latest developments and the continued spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), the Southeastern Conference today announced the suspension of regular-season competition for teams in all sports on SEC campuses, as well SEC championship events, until March 30,” said the SEC in its official statement.
ALERT: Based on the latest developments and the continued spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), the Southeastern Conference today announced the cancellation of the remainder of the 2020 Men’s Basketball Tournament in Nashville.
— Southeastern Conference (@SEC) March 12, 2020
The ACC tournament, one of the most exciting and hyper-competitive conference tourneys, also decided to cancel due to coronavirus concerns.
“This unprecedented in American sports,” said ACC commissioner John Swofford. “It’s much bigger and important than the sporting world.”
“The primary issue with something like this is the safety of the fans and everybody else involved with the event.”
Commissioner joined Packer and Durham to discuss the #ACCTourney proceeding with limited attendance.
— ACC Men's Basketball (@accmbb) March 12, 2020
Big East Finally Cancels
The Big East decided to play on, but then abruptly made a decision to cancel the tournament due to the coronavirus scare.
The St. John’s and Creighton game tipped off in an empty MSG. The teams played the entire first half before officials suspended the game at halftime.
The Big East finally made an announcement that it would be following the lead of the other Power 5 conferences.
“Following a call with our Presidents and Athletic Directors, and additional consultation with the City of New York, the BIG EAST Conference has canceled the remainder of our men’s basketball tournament immediately. We believe the decision is in the best interest of our participants and fans.”
— BIG EAST Conference (@BIGEAST) March 12, 2020
The Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) announced it too would cancel its conference tournament due to coronavirus. Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City played host to the MAAC tournament this year.