Only hours after announcing games will be held behind closed doors, the NCAA announced that all remaining winter and spring games and 2020 basketball tournaments were cancelled. The announcement means this year, for the first time since 1938, there will be no March Madness.
The association’s statement briefly said: “Today, NCAA President Mark Emmert and the Board of Governors cancelled the Division I men’s and women’s 2020 basketball tournaments, as well as all remaining winter and spring NCAA championships.
“This decision is based on the evolving COVID-19 public health threat, our ability to ensure the events do not contribute to spread of the pandemic, and the impracticality of hosting such events at any time during this academic year given ongoing decisions by other entities.”
While the cancellation was an obvious and wise move, it leaves sportsbooks, notably in Las Vegas, facing a huge revenue gap. Figures quoted in April last year’s Legal Sports Report showed that wagering on March Madness basketball produced $495 m in handle, helping the state to report nearly $600 m in March 2019.
The news also came as a bitter blow to Hofstra Pride coach Joe Mihalich, who has led the team since 2001 to his first March Madness tournament. Quoted in the New York Post, he said: “I never thought it would get cancelled. Everybody felt that way. Postpone it. One of three things happens.
“If it gets worse, then you cancel it. If it gets better, all right, let’s have the tournament. If it stays the same, then you’re dealt with the same tough decision and it can go either way. The range of emotions, we’re just devastated. This is the first time in 19 years our university is going to the tournament and the euphoria quickly becomes heartbreak.”