ACC tournament canceled over coronavirus concerns

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Power 5 conference and others have canceled conference tournaments

The ACC canceled its men’s basketball tournament Thursday over concerns of the spread of the coronavirus, just as quarterfinal play was about to begin in Greensboro, N.C. The conference made the announcement just after noon. The announcement came less than two hours after commissioner John Swofford had met with media at the Greensboro Coliseum in part to explain why the league was going to go forward with the tournament, albeit with limited attendance at the arena.

The league’s statement on the cancellation of the tournament:

“Following additional consultation with the league’s presidents and athletic directors, and in light of the continued conversations surrounding the fluidity of COVID-19, the Atlantic Coast Conference will immediately cancel the remainder of the 2020 ACC Tournament. For NCAA Tournament automatic qualification purposes, Florida State will represent the league as the ACC Champion. We are disappointed for our student-athletes, schools and fans to have to make this decision; however, the overall health and safety of all involved is the priority.”

» More AJC coverage of the coronavirus outbreak

The cancellation of the ACC tournament, along with the SEC, Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12 canceling their tournaments, as well, casts significant questions as to whether the NCAA will continue to hold its own tournament, scheduled to begin next week. The Final Four is scheduled to be held at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on April 4-6, although the NCAA was reportedly considering moving the event to a smaller venue as of Monday after the determination to play the tournament without fans in the stands.

The cancellation of the league’s marquee event offers another perspective on how quickly concerns over the spread of COVID-19 have escalated. As late as Wednesday night, the conference’s tournament was in full operation, with fans in attendance at the Greensboro Coliseum even as other sports leagues were canceling games or severely restricting attendance.

But at 8 p.m. Wednesday, the league announced its decision to limit attendance to the remainder of the games to “essential tournament personnel, limited school administrators and student-athlete guests, broadcast television and credentialed media members present.”

On Thursday morning, shortly before 11 a.m., Swofford told media that the games would continue, but that the situation was fluid. Before tipoff of the first quarterfinal game of the afternoon, Clemson and Florida State took the floor in front of a nearly vacant arena before the game – and tournament – was called off.

Georgia Tech did not participate in the event, having accepted the NCAA’s penalty of a postseason ban for recruiting violations.