Editor’s note: This article was originally published by USA TODAY Sports and has been republished in its entirety below.
Last year, there was no March Madness, another byproduct of the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, a limited number of fans will be allowed to attend the 2021 NCAA men’s and women’s college basketball tournaments.
The NCAA announced Friday that stadiums can allow a quarter of their capacity for all rounds and the Final Four of the 2021 men’s NCAA Tournament. That capacity figure includes essential workers, family members of each team, coaches and staff and all participants of the event. All attendees will be required to wear face coverings and observe social distancing. The release said cleaning, disinfection and safety measures will be a priority at all events.
“The decision to allow up to 25% capacity with physical distancing was made in conjunction with state and local health authorities due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” the release said.
Because of the pandemic, the NCAA announced in January that it will hold the entire tournament in Indiana, with the majority of the tournament’s 67 games to be played in Indianapolis.
“We continue to use the knowledge we have gained over the season on how to conduct games in a safe environment,” NCAA president Mark Emmert said Friday in the release.
The centralized location is unprecedented for the biggest event in men’s college basketball, which normally is spread at 13 different sites across the country.
Games will be played on two courts inside Lucas Oil Stadium, as well as Bankers Life Fieldhouse (Indianapolis), Butler’s Hinkle Fieldhouse (Indianapolis), Indiana Farmers Coliseum (Indianapolis), Purdue’s Mackey Arena (West Lafayette) and Indiana’s Assembly Hall (Bloomington). Only one game at a time will be played at Lucas Oil Stadium.
“This year’s tournament will be like no other, and while we know it won’t be the same for anyone, we are looking forward to providing a memorable experience for the student-athletes, coaches and fans at a once-in-a-lifetime tournament,” NCAA senior vice president of basketball Dan Gavitt said Friday in the release. “After the cancellation of the 2020 tournament, we are happy to welcome some fans back to all rounds of the Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament.”
The tournament is scheduled to begin March 18.
Later Friday, the NCAA also announced that a limited number of fans would be able to attend the women’s college basketball tournament in San Antonio, Texas, with up to 17% capacity from the Sweet Sixteen through the Final Four.
Similar to the protocols in place for the men’s tournament, fans at the women’s games will wear masks and observe social distancing.
Unlike the men’s tournament, however, first- and second-round play in the women’s tournament will be open only to the game’s participants and guests, with each person of a team’s 34-member travel party allowed up to six guest tickets.
The first round of the women’s tournament is set to tip March 21.
“We are looking forward to the return of the championship as well as limited fan attendance to what will be a unique and unforgettable event,” NCAA vice president of women’s basketball Lynn Holzman said Friday in a press release. “The NCAA has and will continue to work in conjunction with state and local health authorities to ensure the health and safety of all student-athletes, staff and fans for this year’s championship, but we are excited that fans will again be part of the 2021 championship.”