Just a few moments ago, the NCAA cancelled March Madness over fears of the spread of COVID-19 (the Coronavirus disease). This event, which brings in over $800 million dollars of television revenue alone, is a major blow to both the NCAA and sports fans across the country. This is a major blow to spectators and athletes alike, and there are so many things still facing the NCAA after this decision. Here are just some of my quick opinions. I emphasize quick because by the time this article is completed, there could be multiple other changes.
First, the NCAA did the right thing. I am someone who does multiple practice brackets before the real one is released, and my ringtone is the classic “March Madness Song.” As my mother puts it: “This is his Christmas.” However, the NCAA is designed to have players’ needs and safety at the heart of its operations. They showed they do care about the athletes by forgoing a chance to bring in millions in revenue. They placed the needs of the athletes before the opinions of fans and spectators, and I’m glad. If it were up to me, I would have it continue, and I know that’s a selfish and unsafe option.
Second, I don’t think this is how this year’s tournament will end. At the very least, there needs to be a 4-team playoff. Take the top four teams in the country – based on rankings – and have them play to determine a champion. The NCAA needs some action during this lull, and fans need something to distract them. I am more than content with them playing in an empty stadium with only family members present, if this occurs.
Also, all seniors should be granted an extra year of eligibility. These athletes have worked so hard to get their teams into the “Big Dance,” and it would be a travesty if they didn’t get the opportunity. In the end, it wouldn’t affect the NBA Draft too significantly. All that it would alter would be the draft classes. Anyone who is good enough will eventually make it to the NBA anyway. Why not give these athletes a chance at what the have been working so hard for?
There needs to be a plan addressing the workers at the venues. Most of these individuals will suffer dramatically because of the lost wages. The NCAA needs to work not only with the players but also the workers to ensure that the suffering is mitigated as much as possible. There shouldn’t be families that ensure hardship because of something outside of their control. If the top four teams play, and the NCAA broadcasts it, they should use that revenue to pay for the lost wages, or at least help offset some of that loss.
If for some reason the NCAA Tournament never occurs in any fashion, the bracket needs to be released. Let fans speculate who would have won. Let people make polls and create articles arguing their point. At the very least, wouldn’t is distract people from the fear going around? What’s the worst it could do?
Lastly, this situation is evolving and unique. We have seen the NBA, MLB, NHL, NCAA, etc. all affected by this disease. More importantly, whole countries have been impacted by this disease. What seemed acceptable today may be worthless tomorrow. In the end, stay safe. While we are all disappointed at this loss, nothing can replace the value of life. Spend time with your family and enjoy everything that you have, and I hope that this issue is eradicated as quickly and painlessly as possible.