NCAA Sports

NCAA cancels March Madness, Frozen Four, all other championships; Big Ten halts all sports

Chris Solari, Detroit Free Press Published 4:19 p.m. ET March 12, 2020 | Updated 4:30 p.m. ET March 12, 2020

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Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren speaks to the media after canceling the men’s basketball tournament on Thursday, March 12, 2020, in Indianapolis. Detroit Free Press

March Madness is over before it began.

The NCAA announced Thursday it will cancel its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments and other championship events into the spring season due to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.

Moments after that, the Big Ten announced it would halt “all conference and non-conference competitions through the end of the academic year, including spring sports that compete beyond the academic year.” The conference also announced all on- and off-campus recruiting activities would cease “for the foreseeable future.”

NCAA officials said president Mark Emmert canceled all NCAA-sponsored events at every division and other winter and spring championships a day after the COVID-19 virus outbreak was deemed a pandemic Wednesday by the World Health Organization.

“Today, NCAA President Mark Emmert and the Board of Governors canceled the Division I men’s and women’s 2020 basketball tournaments, as well as all remaining winter and spring NCAA championships,” the NCAA said in a release. “This decision is based on the evolving COVID-19 public health threat, our ability to ensure the events do not contribute to spread of the pandemic, and the impracticality of hosting such events at any time during this academic year given ongoing decisions by other entities.”

Mar 21, 2019; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; March Madness logo at mid court during the first half in the first round of the 2019 NCAA Tournament between the Baylor Bears and the Syracuse Orange at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Mar 21, 2019; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; March Madness logo at mid court during the first half in the first round of the 2019 NCAA Tournament between the Baylor Bears and the Syracuse Orange at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports (Photo: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)

Before the announcement, both Duke and Kansas announced they would not participate in the NCAA tournament. 

The NCAA initially announced Wednesday it would hold the Division I basketball tournaments and other championships in front of near-empty arenas with only athletes, coaches, immediate family and essential staff present.

It is the first time the NCAA men’s basketball tournament has ever been canceled. It began in 1939 and continued despite World War II.

Thursday’s decision also includes the NCAA Division I hockey tournament. The annual Frozen Four was to be held April 9-11 at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit and hosted by Michigan State University.

The Big Ten and other conferences canceled the remainder of their postseason tournaments Thursday, with exception of the Big East men’s basketball tournament. Most closed their events to fans Wednesday, but the Big Ten did not.

Michigan was scheduled to open Thursday’s games at the Big Ten tournament against Rutgers, but the teams were called off the court about 15 minutes before the scheduled noon tipoff time. First-year commissioner Kevin Warren said the tournament will not be continued. Tom Izzo’s Spartans were scheduled to play at 6:30 p.m. Friday but had not left East Lansing for Indianapolis when the tournament was canceled.

The Big Ten was not the only conference to cancel its conference tournament. The Ivy League canceled the men’s and women’s tournaments on Wednesday. The AAC canceled its tournament minutes before the Big Ten announced its decision. Within an hour, all Power 5 leagues — the ACC, Big Ten, SEC, Big 12 and Pac-12 — had canceled their tournaments, and other leagues such as the American, Atlantic 10, Conference USA, MAC, America East, Big Sky and WAC followed suit.

The NBA, G-League, NHL and MLS have suspended their seasons, and Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine on Wednesday ordered potential NCAA men’s hoops games in Dayton and Cleveland to be played without fans before the NCAA’s edict. Both Michigan and Ohio State also have canceled their spring football games, while MSU has yet to make an announcement.

Contact Chris Solari: csolari@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @chrissolari. Read more on the Michigan State Spartans and sign up for our Spartans newsletter.

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