HBCU basketball teams that qualify for the NCAA Tournament could have its destinations determined months before the annual event begins.
The NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Committee announced on Monday that it is holding the 68-team tournament in the Indianapolis area in March. The city was already scheduled to host the Final Four in April.
The reason? The surging coronavirus pandemic has engulfed the country and made life utterly difficult for millions of Americans and forced several schools and conferences to either outright cancel or delay winter and spring sports because of uncertainty over community COVID-19 outbreaks.
Read: There’s no escaping the COVID-19 reality that HBCUs have to shut sports down — all of them
The tournament was set to be held in 13 preliminary sites around the country, but the committee decided that could be “difficult to execute” during the COVID-19 pandemic. Holding the tournament in one location provides a more controlled environment for teams to play and practice and reduces travel.
“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,” said Mitch Barnhart, chair of the Division I Men’s Basketball Committee and University of Kentucky athletics director.
The decision comes eight months after the NCAA canceled the tournament last March amid the outbreak.
What this means for HBCUs is no annual trip to Dayton, Ohio for the First Four or a journey to the backyard of No. 1 seeds.
Alabama State announced Sunday that it would move to a conference-only model for the regular season.