Big Ten, Big 12 following NCAA Tournament’s lead in restricting fans over coronavirus concerns

The Big Ten and Big 12 conferences are following the lead of the NCAA. Beginning with Thursday’s games, the general public will not be allowed to attend their men’s basketball tournaments as two of the most powerful conferences in college sports followed the NCAA’s lead in response to the coronavirus.

“The main priority of the Big Ten Conference is to ensure the safety of our student-athletes, coaches, administrators, fans and media as we continue to monitor all relevant information on the COVID-19 virus on a daily basis,” the Big Ten said in an announcement.

The NCAA announced Wednesday that fans will not be allowed at the NCAA Tournament, which begins Tuesday in Dayton, Ohio. Conference tournaments around the country run through Sunday, when the NCAA Tournament bracket will be revealed.

Both the Big Ten and Big 12 Tournaments started Wednesday with fans in attendance. The other major conferences planned to play their Wednesday conference tournament games with fans as well, even after the NCAA announced its decision to restrict NCAA Tournament access to “only essential staff and limited family attendance.” 

But the ACC said in a Wednesday afternoon tweet that it “will evaluate the remainder” of its conference tournament.

The NCAA’s move left individual leagues to figure out if they should follow their lead and restrict attendance at conference tournaments that are scheduled to continue through Sunday. The SEC, which tips off its tournament on Wednesday evening in Nashville, planned to play its first-round games with fans as of Wednesday afternoon.

“Tonight’s SEC Men’s Basketball Tournament games will continue as regularly scheduled,” SEC associate commissioner Herb Vincent wrote in a tweet. “We are evaluating plans for the remainder of the tournament. More to come.”

The Big East also released a statement suggesting its tournament would continue with fans allowed for the time being.

Other leagues, such as the MAC and Big West, restricted their conference tournaments to the public before the NCAA’s decision on Wednesday, while the Ivy League cancelled its league tournaments — and all spring sports — amid concern over the coronavirus.

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