Just hours on from announcing that games would be played behind closed doors, the NCAA has confirmed that all remaining winter and spring games and 2020 basketball tournaments have been cancelled. The announcement means that for the first time since 1938, there will be no March Madness this year.
The statement from the association briefly said: “Today, NCAA President Mark Emmert and the Board of Governors canceled 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 necessary move, it does leave sportsbooks – particularly in Las Vegas – facing a massive shortfall in revenue. Figures quoted by Legal Sports Report in April last year showed that wagering on March Madness basketball generated $495m in handle, helping the state to a record monthly handle of almost $600m in March 2019.
The news also came as a bitter blow to the likes of Hofstra Pride coach Joe Mihalich, who had led the team to its first March Madness tournament since 2001. Quoted in the New York Post, he said: “I never thought it would get canceled. 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.”