KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Shortly after the NCAA said upcoming basketball tournaments will be played without spectators, the Big 12 Conference said fans will not be allowed to attend any tournament games in Kansas City beginning Thursday.
Fans will still be allowed at the games being played on Wednesday night. But after that, each team will only have access to 125 tickets for staff and guests of student-athletes. No fans, cheerleaders or pep bands will be allowed at the games because of concerns over the spread of coronavirus.
Announcement:— Big 12 Conference (@Big12Conference) March 11, 2020
Beginning with tomorrow's tournament games, we will be implementing limited access. Teams will have access to 125 tickets for staff and guests of student-athletes.
For the full announcement and more details ⤵️ pic.twitter.com/8W7h565eGn
Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby said the decision was made to give athletes the opportunity to play the games while minimizing the number of people in attendance.
"Obviously, we don't do this lightly," Bowlsby said at a news conference late Wednesday. "We are blessed to have the best basketball tournament in all of college basketball, and to have to take these steps is painful for everyone that's involved. But these are unusual times, so we have taken the steps that we think are appropriate."
The first round of the Big 12 Men's Basketball Tournament tips off at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Sprint Center, featuring No. 8 Oklahoma State vs. No. 9 Iowa State and No. 7 Texas Christian University vs. No. 10 Kansas State.
The women's championship starts on Thursday.
Around 5 p.m. Wednesday, 41 Action News reporter Andres Gutierrez said fans were being allowed to enter the Sprint Center.
On Wednesday, the NCAA’s panel on coronavirus recommended that all athletic competitions, including the Division I men’s and women’s basketball tournaments that start next week, be played without spectators due to concerns over the spread of COVID-19. Only essential staff and limited family will be allowed to attend the NCAA Tournament games.
NCAA President Mark Emmert said in a statement that the decision was made "in the best interest of public health, including that of coaches, administrators, fans and, most importantly, our student-athletes."
Kansas City, Missouri, Mayor Quinton Lucas released a statement on the situation in conjunction with KCMO Health Department Director Dr. Rex Archer and Emergency Medical Services Medical Director Dr. Erica Carney:
"While Kansas City was eager and prepared to host fans from across the country during the Big 12 men’s and women’s basketball tournaments this weekend, keeping our community – and their players – safe remains our top priority. We support the Big 12’s decision to limit fan attendance at all tournament games and we still look forward to welcoming the Big 12’s men’s and women’s teams to our region. As a reminder, there are still no confirmed COVID-19 cases in Kansas City, Missouri. We continue to closely monitor the situation and make decisions accordingly. We will continue providing updates as we have them."
Many sporting events have either been canceled or limited in attendance due to concerns about the spread of coronavirus.