Indianapolis sole venue for ‘March Madness’?


NCAA update November 2020 Image: HKS

Going by the COVID-19 clobber in the United States, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has chalked out detailed plans to stage the entirety of next year’s March Madness basketball tournament in Indianapolis (US) keeping in mind the safety quotient of the event.

Lucas Oil Stadium, home venue of the Indianapolis Colts National Football League (NFL) team will play host to the Final Four tournament. Bankers Life Fieldhouse, home of the Indiana Pacers National Basketball Association (NBA) team, could be utilized to stage games if the NCAA finalizes plans to stage the entire tournament in the City.

The Indianapolis-headquartered National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is a nonprofit organization that regulates student athletes from up to 1,268 North American institutions and conferences.

The NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament, also known and branded as NCAA March Madness, is a single-elimination tournament played each Spring in the United States, currently featuring 68 colleges.

The NCAA announced on November 16th that it is in preliminary talks with the State of Indiana and the City of Indianapolis to potentially host the 68-team fixture around the metropolitan area during March and April next year.

Indianapolis was already signed up to stage the men’s Final Four from April 3rd-5th but the new proposals would see the entire tournament take place in the City.

The NCAA has been drawing out extensive plans to deliver the event in the safest way possible and came to the conclusion that conducting the championship at 13 preliminary round sites across the US would be “very difficult to execute” due to the very grim pandemic situation in the country.

“My committee colleagues and I did not come lightly to the difficult decision to relocate the preliminary rounds of the 2021 tournament, as we understand the disappointment 13 communities will feel to miss out on being part of March Madness next year,” commented Mitch Barnhart, Chair, Division I Men’s Basketball Committee and University of Kentucky (in Lexington, US) Athletics Director.

Added Barnhart, “With the University of Kentucky slated to host first- and second-round games in March, this is something that directly impacts our school and community, so we certainly share in their regret. The committee and staff deeply appreciate the efforts of all the host institutions and conferences, and we look forward to bringing the tournament back to the impacted sites in future years.”

The Division I Men’s Basketball Committee has given topmost priority to staging March Madness in a “manageable” geographic area to limit travel for teams and provide for a safe and controlled environment with competition and practice venues, medical resources and lodging for teams and officials within close proximity.

The NBA, Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) and the National Hockey League (NHL) recently concluded their seasons with similar ‘bubble’ set-ups and Dan Gavitt, NCAA’s Senior Vice-President, Basketball, said the organization closely studied and examined how other sports have dealt with the impact of the pandemic while arriving at the above decision.

Gavitt observed, “We have learned so much from monitoring other successful sporting events in the last several months, and it became clear it’s not feasible to manage this complex championship in so many different States with the challenges presented by the pandemic. However, we are developing a solid plan to present a safe, responsible and fantastic March Madness tournament unlike any other we have experienced.”

The NCAA was forced to cancel this year’s March Madness due to the unprecedented health emergency which broke out globally due to coronavirus and hit US with full force.

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