NCAA OKs limited fan attendance at men's, women's tourneys

FILE - In this Jan. 19, 2017, file photo, Mitch Barnhart, athletic director at Kentucky, takes part in a panel discussion at the NCAA Convention in Nashville, Tenn. There is no need to worry about geography in this year's NCAA Tournament. Get ready for plenty of talk about the so-called S curve instead. And do not worry it's not that complicated. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, File) (Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

INDIANAPOLIS – The NCAA will allow a limited number of fans to attend all rounds of its men's basketball tournament in Indiana and later rounds of its women's tournament in Texas.

The governing body said Friday it is permitting 25% capacity at the men's tournament venues to allow for social distancing. That figure will include all participants and essential staff along with the family members of team players and coaches.

On the women's side, the NCAA will allow a capacity of up to 17% at each venue from the Sweet 16 to the Final Four. Games taking place for the first two rounds will limit attendance to team guests.

In each case, attendees must wear face coverings, while cleaning and disinfecting efforts will be emphasized at venues in keeping with COVID-19 safety protocols. The NCAA said it acted in conjunction with local health officials for each tournament.

NCAA chief medical officer Brian Hainline said the decision for the men's tournament also followed conversations with the organization's medical advisory group and will rely on testing and monitoring services from the Indiana University Health system.

“The No. 1 priority for decisions around the tournament continues to be the safety and well-being of everyone participating in the event,” Hainline said.

The NCAA had previously announced the 68-team tournament will be played entirely in Indiana because of the pandemic, with most games in Indianapolis. The tournament will begin with First Four games on March 18 at home arenas for Big Ten Conference schools Purdue and Indiana, with those venues located about a one-hour drive — in opposite directions — from downtown Indianapolis.

At Indiana, the school said it will allow up to 500 fans for tournament games at Assembly Hall with some seats reserved for local medical workers and first responders who have been vaccinated.

The Final Four takes place in Indianapolis on April 3. The national championship game follows two days later.

For the women, the 64-team tournament is being held in the San Antonio region, with first-round games beginning March 21. The Final Four will be held in the Alamodome in San Antonio on April 2, followed by the national championship game on April 4.

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