INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The NCAA announced Monday that all 67 men’s basketball tournament games including the Final Four will be played entirely in Indiana in a bid to keep the marquee event from being called off for a second consecutive year because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Games will be played one at a time on two courts inside Lucas Oil Stadium, home of the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts. They will also be held at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Hinkle Fieldhouse, Indiana Farmers Coliseum, Mackey Arena at Purdue, and Assembly Hall in Bloomington.
Championship weekend is still scheduled for April 3 and April 5 but preliminary round dates have not yet been determined.
“Last year, we had to rip March Madness away from all the teams and all the fans at the very last minute,” NCAA President Mark Emmert said during a video call. “We know it was the right thing to do, but it was a painful thing to do. So we want to deliver this year on the promise of March Madness. They deserve it.”
Still to be determined is how many fans will be allowed inside the venues.
NCAA officials said a limited number of family members of players and coaches could attend games but decisions about expanding attendance or conducting fan events will be announced later. The pandemic has already canceled scores of college basketball games this season, with postponements and COVID-19 issues nearly a daily occurrence.
“This is going to be complicated and difficult; there’s no question about that,” NCAA vice president of basketball Dan Gavitt said.
Ball State, Butler, Indiana, IUPUI, and Purdue will serve as host schools and the Horizon League will host games played at Lucas Oil Stadium, just a short distance away from NCAA headquarters. The NCAA also plans to hold its Division II and Division III tournaments in Indiana.
Gavitt said most of the Division I games will be played in the Indianapolis area, though some first-round games will be played at Indiana and Purdue. Both Big Ten schools are approximately an hour’s drive from Indianapolis.
The NCAA said it intends to partner with a local health provider to administer COVID-19 testing for players, coaches, school administrators, and officials and will continue to work with public health officials to maintain a safe and healthy environment around the tournament.
CBS Sports and Turner Sports will continue to televise all of the games on the TBS, CBS, TNT, and truTV networks and their digital platforms.
“March Madness will take place in 2021, but the environment in which we live is drastically different, which means the tournament will have a different feel as well,” Gavitt said. “Currently, there are no changes to the field size of 68, Selection Sunday is still scheduled for March 14 and the Final Four will still be played April 3 and 5.”
The NCAA had said it intended to play the entire tourney in one general locale and Indianapolis would be the likely place. There are dozens of downtown hotels and restaurants within walking distance of multiple basketball venues with additional practice facilities just a short drive away.
Indianapolis has served as the host for seven men’s Final Fours since 1980 in addition to a litany of early-round games and regional championships.
Indy also has hosted multiple women’s Final Fours. The NCAA has not yet announced plans for the women’s tourney, though a similar decision to host all games in one locale is expected.
“Since 1940, our city has been the backdrop for 97 NCAA men’s tournament games, putting us at No. 5 for all-time hosts,” Mayor Joe Hogsett said. “By the time the 2021 tournament ends, Indy will be No. 1 and I have every confidence our city is up to the task of running these games in a safe and healthy environment.”