Big Ten cancels conference tournament amid COVID-19 crisis

Thursday, March 12, 2020 - 12:12pm

An empty Bankers Life Fieldhouse before the Big Ten Tournament was canceled on Thursday.

An empty Bankers Life Fieldhouse before the Big Ten Tournament was canceled on Thursday. Buy this photo
Miles Macklin/Daily

INDIANAPOLIS – The Big Ten conference announced today that it will cancel the remainder of the conference tournament in Indianapolis amid the global outbreak of the coronavirus; the tournament will not resume at a later date. The fate of the NCAA Tournament and selection thereto remains unclear.

“The Big Ten Conference will use this time to work with the appropriate medical experts and institutional leadership to determine next steps for moving forward in regard to the COVID-19 pandemic,” the conference said in a statement. “The main priority of the Big Ten Conference continues to be the health, safety and wellness of our student-athletes, coaches, administrators, fans and media as we continue to monitor all developing and relevant information on the COVID-19 virus.”

The Big Ten Tournament cancelation came just minutes before the Michigan men’s basketball team was supposed to tip off against Rutgers in its first game of the postseason. 

This is just the latest of a flurry of virus-related cancellations, after the World Health Organization classified the coronavirus as a global pandemic. The Ivy League had previously canceled its conference tournament, electing to send Yale, its regular-season champion, to the NCAA Tournament if it continues. The PAC-12 conference has since also canceled its conference tournament, with the SEC, AAC, ACC and others following suit.

The Pac-12 and SEC both canceled all sports. Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren didn’t say whether or not the Big Ten will follow by canceling its hockey tournament, along with other sports. A decision could come this afternoon, he said. The Michigan hockey team is scheduled to play Ohio State in Columbus on Thursday.

“We have to make sure that we’re always taking care of the health and wellness of our student-athletes,” Warren said. “These are big decisions, and they have major ramifications … The biggest thing is that we made the right decision.” 

The Big Ten has no plans to crown a champion from the tournament, though Michigan State, Maryland and Wisconsin all own shares of the regular-season conference title.

It is as of yet unclear whether the NCAA Tournament will continue as planned, or with modifications, or at all. Selection Sunday is planned for March 15 pending any updates from the NCAA. 

The move also comes after the University of Michigan announced yesterday it would move to online classes for the rest of the semester. All home Michigan athletic events in Ann Arbor will be conducted without spectators; ticket-holders will be refunded.

“Some things are bigger than basketball,” Michigan coach Juwan Howard said in a statement. “This is a global situation and we need to make sure we follow the guidance and direction of the experts and health officials. While we are disappointed of not being able to play this event — especially for Zavier (Simpson) and Jon (Teske), we need to stay bonded together during this time. We want everyone to stay safe and take precautions to protect yourselves and loved ones. We are a Michigan family ... forever.”