NCAA cancels March Madness tournaments, all other winter and spring championships

Ahiza García-Hodges

The NCAA on Thursday canceled its men's and women's college basketball tournaments, known as March Madness, in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

The cancellation extends to all remaining winter and spring NCAA championships.

The move comes after most of the NCAA's conferences had suspended their postseason tournaments, including its "power conferences," the Pac-12, the Big 10, the ACC, the Big 12 and the SEC.

The NCAA said in a statement that the decision was made by its president, Mark Emmert, and its board of governors "to ensure the events do not contribute to spread of the pandemic." The statement also cited the "impracticality of hosting such events at any time during this academic year given ongoing decisions by other entities."

The tournaments stand as one of the NCAA's biggest yearly events, alongside the college football national championship. It typically runs for three weeks, with many people across the U.S. filling out brackets of the 68 men's teams and 64 women's teams chosen to participate.

Full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak

Gonzaga University men's basketball coach Mark Few was live on ESPN when news of the cancellation broke. He said that he was "extremely disappointed" and that he felt the tournaments could have been postponed.

The men's tournament was scheduled to begin this weekend with Selection Sunday, which is when the NCAA reveals the full bracket, including all teams and all seeds. The women's bracket was to be announced Monday.

Before the NCAA announcement, some conferences and major universities, including the University of Kansas and Duke University, had already announced they were suspending all athletic competition immediately.

On Wednesday, the NCAA made the decision to close its March Madness competitions to all but essential staff and limited family members. At the time, it was the biggest move by an athletic body in response to the outbreak.

Download the NBC News app for full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak

But within a matter of hours, the NBA took its response a step further after a Utah Jazz player tested positive for coronavirus, suspending play for the entire league.

Following that news, the National Hockey League, Major League Soccer and Major League Baseball paused or postponed their seasons.

The first NCAA Division I men's basketball tournament took place in 1939. It has been held every year since, including in 1981, when a game between Indiana University and the University of North Carolina took place on the same day an assassination attempt was made on President Ronald Reagan.

CORRECTION (March 12, 2020, 9:45 p.m. ET): An earlier version of this article misstated how many teams take part in the NCAA's men's college basketball tournament. Sixty-eight men's teams take part, not 64.