The fact that the NCAA tournament was canceled brings home the impact of COVID-19 or Coronavirus. Every year, in March, some 40 million people combine to submit 70 million brackets, all with the dream of a perfect bracket. There were more brackets submitted in 2018 than there were votes cast for either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. March Madness has become a huge part of American culture, with so many of us coming together to watch Cinderella runs, buzzer-beater shots, insane dunks and so much more. However, the NCAA, just like the NBA, MLB, and NHL, are making the difficult, but correct decision to not hold games and cancel the tournament.
As few as just a couple months ago, all of us, including me, would have been shocked to hear that there would be no March Madness, but due to Coronavirus spreading rapidly, all sporting events have been called off. Just a couple of days ago, the NCAA had announced that the NCAA and NIT tournaments would be played without fans, just like many soccer matches have in Europe.
However, the NBA announced that they would be suspending operations and the MLB, NHL and MLS did the same in less than 24 hours. The NCAA followed suit after many schools that were participating in the tournament, such as Duke and Kansas, had announced they were suspending their athletic programs.
The cancelation of the tournament will have a massive fallout for so many people. Every senior is robbed of one last chance to compete for the national title. The student sections will not get to see their team try to reach the mountain top and the fans don’t get to watch their dreams come true (or come crashing down in a heartbreaking shot).
For the first time that I can ever remember, the NCAA choose to value student-athletes’ well-being over their bottom line. The NCAA is going to lose about a billion dollars. The fact that the NCAA made this decision is surprising to me, but I’m very glad that they were able to make it.
There are many athletes who are devastated and rightly so. I think the most striking examples of this are the mid-majors, who may never again have this opportunity to compete for a title, especially #3 Dayton and #6 San Diego State. Neither of these programs are traditional basketball powerhouses, but they have had historic seasons. Obi Toppin, who could win National Player of the Year, has led Dayton to a 29-2 record and the Flyers would have likely received a one seed in the tournament. While Toppin is not a senior, due to him being projected as a top pick in the draft, I expect that he will not have another chance to win a title. San Diego State doesn’t have a player who is as big of a star as Toppin, but transfers Yanni Wetzell and KJ Feagin have been major parts in the Aztecs’ 30-2 season. Both Wetzell and Feagin are 5th-year seniors and thus will not have another chance to fight for a title. These are just three of the many stories across all of college basketball.
In addition to the NCAA’s losses, the gambling industry will lose out on the 8.5 billion dollars that is bet on March Madness every year. This will dramatically affect the lives of many workers at casinos, who will be making less money as a result of the cancelation. Perhaps most importantly, it will cause sports bars and other public gathering sites to lose large amounts of money, which means that there are many service industry jobs that are about to endure a very difficult time.
There have been talks that the NCAA should give back the year of eligibility to the players, but I will be very surprised if the NCAA does this. Most of the top tier players will want to go pro, and 5th-year seniors may want to get their life started rather than playing another year of basketball.
There has been a lot of confusion as to why the NCAA canceled the tournament, rather than postponing it as the other major sports leagues have done. This is for two major reasons. The first of which is logistics. There were 21 different arenas that were scheduled to host games over the course of the tournament. It would be nearly impossible to reschedule them so that the tournament could run in its expected time.
The second reason is that there would likely be low star athlete participation. If the tournament was going to be rescheduled it would likely become “May Madness” or “Jubilant June” if it could even happen. The NBA Draft is on June 20, meaning that many athletes would not want to risk an injury in the tournament or they would choose to sit out to prepare for the NBA Combine which takes place in May. The tournament wouldn’t be the same without stars like Toppin, Iowa’s Luka Garza or Michigan State’s Cassius Winston…just to name a few.
Lots of us have been affected by this decision. However, Corona Virus is a very dangerous disease, especially for the elderly and adults who have other ailments. When asked about it, CST staff writer Andrew Baillargeon said, “Take any and all measures to contain it. Even drastic ones. Sucks, but I’d rather we stop folks dying at the expense of entertainment.” This is a sentiment that many people share, which led the NCAA to make the choice to cancel the tournament.
Just as March Madness lover and CBS Sports Insider Jon Rothstein tweeted, “The 2020 NCAA Tournament has been canceled, but that’s not a tragedy.
What has Coronavirus already taught us?
It really is just a game.” (via @JonRothstein)