(Reuters) – The NCAA said on Friday that it was not advising the cancellation of sporting events at U.S. colleges and universities, amid a global coronavirus outbreak that has prompted school closures and orders to work from home in some communities.
The advisory from the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) comes less than two weeks ahead of the wildly popular Division I basketball tournament “March Madness,” which takes place in venues across the country, drawing millions of viewers and corresponding ad dollars.
“The key is for all stakeholders and athletes to practice risk mitigation at all events,” said a statement from the NCAA’s coronavirus advisory panel, which was convened this week in response to the outbreak.
“At present the panel is not recommending cancellation or public spacing of athletic and related events scheduled to occur in public spaces across the United States.”
The first round of the 64-team Division I tournament is expected to start on March 19, in Albany, New York; Spokane, Washington; St. Louis; and Tampa, Florida.
The statement was released hours after Johns Hopkins University said it had barred spectators from attending the NCAA Division III men’s basketball tournament it is hosting this week because of recently confirmed cases of coronavirus in Maryland, it said on Friday.
The Baltimore-based university is hosting the first two rounds of the tournament but decided spectators would not be permitted based on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about large gatherings.
“We have determined that it is prudent to hold this tournament without spectators,” the university said on its athletics website.
“We are not making any determination about other JHU events at this time; while we await further guidance from public health authorities, we will be assessing large events on a case-by-case basis.”
The university also said all three games being played at Johns Hopkins will be streamed live and individuals who purchased tickets will receive a refund.
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto and Amy Tennery in New York; Editing by Toby Davis and Jonathan Oatis)