Southland Conference limiting attendance beginning Thursday morning; NCAA president closes national tournament to public

Southland Conference limiting attendance beginning Thursday morning; NCAA president closes national tournament to public
The NCAA has announced that although March Madness basketball tournament games will carry on as scheduled, only essential personnel and family members will be allowed to attend due to the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. (Source: Gray Media Group)

(KLTV/KTRE) - From the Southland Conference website:

The Southland Conference has announced it will limit attendance beginning Thursday morning at the 2020 Hercules Tires Southland Conference Men’s and Women’s Basketball Tournaments at the Leonard E. Merrell Center, due to precautions related to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

Beginning with Thursday’s women’s first round and men’s second round games, arena entry will be restricted to participating teams, game officials, tournament staff, spirit groups (at each institution’s discretion), credentialed media, other support personnel, and family members included on the team’s official pass list. There will be no entry allowed for ticket holders and no opportunity to purchase tickets at the Merrell Center.

In the near future, the Southland and its member institutions will provide a refund policy to fans who have purchased tickets. All games of the Southland Tournament are being televised as scheduled, with all preliminary contests being shown live on ESPN+. Saturday’s men’s championship game will be shown live on ESPN2 at 8:30 p.m. Central, while Sunday’s women’s title game will be shown live on CBS Sports Network at 1 p.m. Central.

“While this announcement creates considerable inconvenience for many fans, these measures are being taken with the health and well-being of the tournament’s participants in mind, including student-athletes and coaches,” Southland Commissioner Tom Burnett said. “This is of the utmost importance as we’re seeing similar issues across the country with other sporting events, including the NCAA Men’s and Women’s Basketball Championships in the coming weeks. The Southland will continue monitor and to take necessary precautions through the weeks ahead as other competition and championship events are scheduled.”

The Katy Kids Dribble scheduled for Saturday morning at the Merrell Center will also be cancelled.

NCAA President Mark Emmert made an announcement on Wednesday regarding attendance at sports events.

Emmert has decided to close the national tournament to the public due to concerns about COVID-19.

This statement in full follows:

The NCAA continues to assess the impact of COVID-19 in consultation with public health officials and our COVID-19 advisory panel. Based on their advice and my discussions with the NCAA Board of Governors, I have made the decision to conduct our upcoming championship events, including the Division ! men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, with only essential staff and limited family attendance.

While I understand how disappointing this is for all fans of our sports, my decision is based on the current understanding of how COVID-19 is progressing in the United States. This decision is in the best interest of our public health, including that of coaches, administrators, fans, and most importantly, our student-athletes.

We recognize the opportunity to compete in an NCAA national championship is an experience of a lifetime for the student and their families. Today, we will move forward and conduct championships consistent with the current information and will continue to monitor and make adjustments as needed.

In East Texas sports, the Southland Conference Tournament is still open to the public. If a statement is released that changes that, we will update our sites and newscasts with that information.

You can also watch the following page for updates:

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