BLOOMINGTON – With COVID-19 cases decreasing in Indiana and around the country, the NCAA announced Friday a limited number of fans will be allowed to attend the all-Hoosier State 2021 NCAA Tournament.
The NCAA said the decision to allow up to 25% capacity with physical distancing was made in conjunction with state and local authorities. All attendees will be required to wear face coverings and physically distance during the event, with thorough cleaning, disinfecting and safety measures a priority in all venues.
“We continue to use the knowledge we have gained over the season on how to conduct games in a safe environment,” NCAA president Mark Emmert said.
The announcement comes on a day in which Indiana reported 760 new COVID-19 cases statewide, down from a peak of 7,699 on Dec. 5. Nationwide, new cases have dropped by more than 75% since Jan. 6, in part due to vaccination and social distancing efforts.
All of the 67 games in the NCAA Tournament will take place in Indiana, culminating with the Final Four at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on April 3 and April 5. Other venues for the tournament include Hinkle Fieldhouse, Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indiana Farmers Coliseum, Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall in Bloomington and Mackey Arena in West Lafayette.
While 25% is the maximum for fan attendance, different venues could make different decisions on attendance based on local health and safety protocols. Indiana announced Simon Skjodt’s maximum attendance for the tournament will be capped at 500, or 3% capacity. That’s been consistent with IU home basketball games this season, which have included families and friends of players for both teams and vaccinated health workers and first responders.
Purdue, meanwhile, is still working with state and local officials to determine fan capacity at Mackey Arena.
“The No. 1 priority for decisions around the tournament continues to be the safety and well-being of everyone participating in the event,” said NCAA chief medical officer Dr. Brian Hainline. “We have been in regular conversations with the NCAA COVID-19 Medical Advisory Group and local health officials to make sure we have the right protocols in place to provide a safe environment. Additionally, IU Health is providing critical testing and monitoring services enabling us to safely conduct the tournament.”
It will be an adjustment for Big Ten players, who have played in front of limited crowds of 100 to 500 fans that include just families and friends throughout the season. Different conferences around the country have made different decisions regarding fan attendance. In the SEC, for example, Florida has allowed a maximum fan capacity of 2,200, or 25% capacity of the 10,000-seat Exactech Arena.