The Big East Tournament begins Wednesday in Madison Square Garden in New York. Whether the tournament reaches its conclusion Saturday, however, remains to be seen.
Indeed, the coronavirus has March Madness in uncharted territory.
“We’re in a very fluid situation with COVID-19 as it relates to its effect on events – specifically sporting events,” Big East Associate Commissioner Stu Jackson said on The DA Show. “All options are still on the table. If you haven’t seen, we did release a statement a couple days ago saying that we plan on playing the tournament in its entirety with spectators. But again, this is a fluid situation and we’ll have to continue to monitor it, being in touch with the state health authority, the city health authority and even the CDC to determine what’s in the best interests of our students and the fans that plan on attending.” It’s possible that the Big East could pull the plug on the tournament prior to completion.
“I think that’s the last option, but certainly just given the landscape, we’ll have to monitor it and make decisions accordingly,” Jackson said. “This situation really is day-to-day, if not hour-to-hour. We’re collecting all the information that we can with an eye on our top priority being the safety of our student-athletes and the safety of our fans.”
Playing the tournament in full with spectators is the ideal option. Playing the tournament in full without spectators would be the next option. Not playing games at all would be the last option.
“Our intention is to play the entire week with spectators,” Jackson said. “There have been a couple conferences in the country already that have elected not to play their tournaments in front of spectators – that being the Big West and the MAC conference. But we are planning to play the games with spectators as I speak to you right now. But it’s prudent on behalf of the conference that we continue to monitor the situation and do what’s in the best interest of everyone.”
“We’re in contact with many conferences,” he said. “Myself personally, I’m in contact with the other Power Six basketball conferences just to try to monitor what they’re doing with not only playing the games, but also if they’re going to change any protocols . . . [such as] press protocols pre- and post-game. If there’s something we can do there that minimizes the risk and ensures the safety of the student-athletes, well, that’s something we can learn not only from the information that we glean, but also from the information that we get from other conferences. And we’re doing that.”