(Reuters) – The coronavirus outbreak prompted the Ivy League college athletic conference on Tuesday to cancel its men’s and women’s U.S. basketball tournaments, the winners of which would have received automatic bids to the “March Madness” tournament, set to begin later this month.
The league also said it would restrict other athletic events as the outbreak upends major sporting competitions worldwide, but did not provide details.
“Regrettably, the information and recommendations presented to us from public health authorities and medical professionals have convinced us that this is the most prudent decision,” Ivy League Executive Director Robin Harris said in a statement.
The cancellation means the that the regular-season winners — Princeton’s women’s team and Yale’s men’s team — will automatically qualify for the NCAA tournament.
The league also includes Harvard, Dartmouth, Columbia, Cornell, Brown and Penn.
The announcement comes days ahead of the expected start of the wildly popular “March Madness” NCAA Division I basketball tournament, which takes place in venues across the country, drawing millions of viewers and corresponding ad dollars.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association said last week that it was not advising the cancellation of sporting events at U.S. colleges and universities, urging “risk mitigation.”
The NCAA did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Tuesday.
(Reporting by Amy Tennery in New York; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)