The Midwestern state of Indiana this year will be host to the entire men’s college basketball tournament, also known as March Madness, the NCAA announced Monday.
The college athletic group is attempting to create a “bubble,” or an isolation zone, in an attempt to protect the college athletes from contracting COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
“If we’re going to be able to do it, it’s got to be done safely," Creighton coach Greg McDermott said. “The more you can limit travel the better. To do it in the middle of the country makes it easier for everybody. ... You want to be there, you want to be part of it. It’s going to be an historic event."
The sporting event, which was canceled last year at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, is one of America’s most celebrated sporting competitions. The NCAA tournament spans 67 basketball games, culminating with the national championship.
Organizers decided to move away from playing the games in 13 venues across the country to just a few sites in or near the city of Indianapolis as a way to control the environment for the games.
In a video call, NCAA President Mark Emmert said, “Last year, we had to rip March Madness away from all the teams and all the fans at the very last minute.” He said it was a painful but necessary decision.
Emmert said they “want to deliver this year on the promise of March Madness” because teams and fans “deserve it.”
The tournament begins March 14 with Selection Sunday, when the teams will be placed into groups. The tournament culminates with the Final Four, with the championship games scheduled for April 3 and April 5.
The NCAA has not yet released the full schedule for the games. It also said a limited number of family members of players and coaches will be able to attend the games.
The NCAA said it will work with local authorities to provide COVID-19 testing for players, coaches and staff. It is also running a “Mask Madness” program that will provide thousands of masks to attendees and participants to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
“This is going to be complicated and difficult; there’s no question about that,” NCAA Senior Vice President of Basketball Dan Gavitt said.
Indianapolis has hosted seven men’s Final Fours since 1980 as well as early-round games and regional championships. 2021 March Madness makes the city the No.1 all-time host.
The NCAA plans to host the corresponding women’s event in San Antonio, Texas.
March Madness will be televised on U.S. television networks.