This season’s Big Ten Tournament, taking place this week in Indianapolis, will be played with no fans. Rows of empty seats will greet this year’s conference teams in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19.
In addition, reporters will not be allowed to enter team locker rooms following games at this week’s Big Ten Tournament in Indianapolis, according to a statement from the Big Ten Conference. The statement, released Wednesday afternoon, confirmed that the tournament will “continue to be held as scheduled,” though postgame media availabilities will be held in a larger space in an attempt to avoid the close confines of locker rooms and fans will not be permitted to enter the facility.
The news comes amid a flurry of action in response to COVID-19 — the virus just recently classified as a global pandemic by the World Health Organization.
Instead of locker room availabilities, postgame interviews will be held on the practice court at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Following the game, coaches and players will be given a 10-minute “cooling-off period” in their locker room, during which they can decide to forego, use only a portion of the allotted time or remain in the locker room. Following the cooling-off period, each team is required to complete 20 minutes of media availability.
On a global scale, sporting events across the world have been either cancelled or played without fans due to the virus and the ensuing wave of alterations that has hit the U.S. The Big West and MAC announced Tuesday that their conference tournaments would be played with no fans.
The Big Ten has stated that the conference tournament will continue but will be played without fans and restricted media access to locker rooms at this time. The Ivy League canceled its tournament outright, along with spring sports.
“Our health is the most important thing,” Michigan coach Juwan Howard said Tuesday, “so we will sit down with our medical staff and see what’s the best way to move forward while preparing and preventing them from getting sick.”
The response to this disease is changing by the hour and the fate of the larger NCAA Tournament remains unclear.
In attempts to quell the spread of the virus, experts suggest washing your hands with soap for at least 20 seconds, avoid touching your face and avoid close contact with people who are sick. In the case of players at this week’s Big Ten Tournament, similar person-to-person adaptations will be made.
“I'm definitely going to keep my distance, not just fans but from a lot of people as far as the touching process,” senior point guard Zavier Simpson said. “I'm not sure who has it or anything. Just to be on the safe side, just wash my hands more frequently. Hopefully fans don’t take it as a negative if I happen to give them a fist instead of a high-five.”