The NCAA says it is in talks to relocate the preliminary rounds for the 2021 Division I Men’s Basketball Championship to the greater Indianapolis area. The Indy-based organization says the decision was made in an effort to “conduct a safe and healthy March Madness for all participants for the 2021 championship.”
The NCAA says its Division I Men’s Basketball Committee has spent the last several weeks working on a contingency planning process for the tournament because of the pandemic.
“Through these discussions, it became apparent to the committee that conducting the championship at 13 preliminary round sites spread throughout the country would be very difficult to execute in the current pandemic environment,” the NCAA said in a news release. “The committee has decided the championship should be held in a single geographic area to enhance the safety and well-being of the event.”
The organization says it is in talks with the state of Indiana and the city of Indianapolis to host the entire 68-team tournament throughout the Indy metropolitan area during March and April. The 2021 Final Four was already scheduled to be held at Lucas Oil Stadium in downtown Indianapolis.
“My committee colleagues and I did not come lightly to the difficult decision to relocate the preliminary rounds of the 2021 tournament, as we understand the disappointment 13 communities will feel to miss out on being part of March Madness next year,” said Mitch Barnhart, chair of the Division I Men’s Basketball Committee. “The committee and staff deeply appreciate the efforts of all the host institutions and conferences, and we look forward to bringing the tournament back to the impacted sites in future years.”
The committee says it was important to have the tournament in a “manageable geographic area” that could limit travel and provide a controlled environment for competition, practice, medical resources, and lodging for teams and officials.
“We have learned so much from monitoring other successful sporting events in the last several months, and it became clear it’s not feasible to manage this complex championship in so many different states with the challenges presented by the pandemic,” said Dan Gavitt, senior vice president of basketball for the NCAA. “However, we are developing a solid plan to present a safe, responsible and fantastic March Madness tournament unlike any other we’ve experienced.”
The NCAA did not provide an estimated time frame for confirming the new locations for each game in the tournament.
Barnhart, who also serves as athletic director for the University of Kentucky, says a lot of factors went into the decision.
Gavitt says states having different COVID regulations is one reason to consolidate the locations into one.