NCAA preparing for possible coronavirus impact on men’s and women’s basketball tournaments

Amid concerns that a potential outbreak of the coronavirus in the U.S. could jeopardize major sporting events, the NCAA's Sports Science Institute has issued memos to its members directing schools toward Centers for Disease Control resources while maintaining preparations for the upcoming NCAA men's and women's basketball tournaments, which begin on Mar. 17.

"NCAA staff continues to prepare for March Madness but we are keenly aware of coronavirus and will continue to monitor in coordination with state/local health authorities and the CDC," said NCAA associate director of communications Chris Radford.

On Tuesday, Nancy Messonnier, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, warned that an outbreak of the virus, also known as 2019-nCoV or COVID-19, could lead to school closings and the cancellation of major sporting events.

TCU guard Jaire Grayer (5) scores in front of Iowa State forward Michael Jacobson during their game at Hilton Coliseum. (Photo: Reese Strickland, USA TODAY Sports)

"Disruption to everyday life may be severe," said Messonnier.

In the two memos issued to athletics directors, health care administrators, conference commissioners and head athletic trainers and team physicians, the NCAA shared links to CDC resources on travel, coronavirus symptoms and topics to discuss with campus leadership.

"Regarding championship play for the winter and spring seasons, the NCAA is taking concerted steps to maintain the first-rate delivery of NCAA championship experiences for participating student-athletes, team personnel and fans," read the second of the two memos, which was sent to member schools on Feb. 13. 

"Championships staff members will implement their health and safety checklist in conjunction with host schools and conferences and their community partners and will monitor COVID-19 developments through the NCAA Sport Science Institute. As they would with any public health crisis, championships staff will add appropriate safeguards in coordination with campus and local health response teams to address COVID-19 concerns."

The first memo, issued on Jan. 28, came one week after the CDC documented the first case of novel coronavirus detected in a traveler returning from Wuhan, China.

"The NCAA Sport Science Institute encourages athletics departments to carefully review these materials with applicable institutional health care providers and other relevant campus personnel and to implement, as necessary, appropriate risk-mitigating initiatives," read the memo.

The second memo said the NCAA schools "have the primary responsibility for ensuring that actionable plans are in place to guide local response to a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 among school personnel or a related exposure incident at an on-campus event."

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