The NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Committee announced Monday that it is in "preliminary talks" to host the entirety of the March Madness tournament in Indianapolis in 2021.
The NCAA said organizers have decided the best course of action would be to hold the entire 68-team tournament in one place, because spreading the preliminary round sites around the country would be difficult due to the coronavirus pandemic.
"In recent weeks, the Division I Men’s Basketball Committee has engaged in a thorough contingency planning process to determine the most effective way to conduct a safe and healthy March Madness for all participants for the 2021 championship," the NCAA said in a statement.
"Through these discussions, it became apparent to the committee that conducting the championship at 13 preliminary round sites spread throughout the country would be very difficult to execute in the current pandemic environment," the statement continued. "The committee has decided the championship should be held in a single geographic area to enhance the safety and well-being of the event."
"As a result, NCAA staff are in preliminary talks with the State of Indiana and the city of Indianapolis to potentially host the 68-team tournament around the metropolitan area during the coordinated dates in March and April," the NCAA said, noting that Indianapolis was already slated to host the Final Four from April 3-5, 2021.
“My committee colleagues and I did not come lightly to the difficult decision to relocate the preliminary rounds of the 2021 tournament, as we understand the disappointment 13 communities will feel to miss out on being part of March Madness next year,” Mitch Barnhart, chair of the Division I Men’s Basketball Committee and University of Kentucky athletics director, said.
“With the University of Kentucky slated to host first- and second-round games in March, this is something that directly impacts our school and community, so we certainly share in their regret," Barnhart continued. "The committee and staff deeply appreciate the efforts of all the host institutions and conferences, and we look forward to bringing the tournament back to the impacted sites in future years.”
NCAA President Mark Emmert said that the top priority is to protect the health of the athletes while allowing them to compete.
The NCAA said conducting the championship in one geographic area, to limit travel, allows organizers to provide a "safe and controlled environment" as well as medical resources and lodging for teams and officials.
“We have learned so much from monitoring other successful sporting events in the last several months, and it became clear it’s not feasible to manage this complex championship in so many different states with the challenges presented by the pandemic,” NCAA Senior Vice President of Basketball Dan Gavitt said. “However, we are developing a solid plan to present a safe, responsible and fantastic March Madness tournament unlike any other we’ve experienced.”