Mid-American Conference commissioner Jon Steinbrecher announced at a press conference at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse on March. 12 that the 2020 MAC Basketball Tournament has been canceled over concerns of Coronavirus (COVID-19).
The response comes less than 24 hours after the NBA announced that it will be suspending the rest of its season following a Utah Jazz player testing positive for COVID-19. The Southeastern Conference, Big 10, Big East, Atlantic Coastal and many others have also canceled their conference tournament in relation to concerns of COVID-19.
"We have been meeting all morning with our directors of athletics and talking about what is the appropriate path forward," Steinbrecher said. "We've also been paying attention to what's been going on around us, in the world in large and the sports world. As you have seen this morning, a number of conferences have made the decision to cancel and we have come to the same conclusion."
The Mid-American Conference announced on March 10 that the tournament would be closed to the general public. Only players, coaches, media and those essential to the game would be allowed inside Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. Eight different women's teams played MAC Quarterfinal games inside Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse on Wednesday before the tournament was canceled.
"This is obviously an unprecedented situation and the forefront of that is always the health and safety of our student athletes, spectators and fans," Ball State Athletic Director Beth Goetz said. "I think everyone is supportive of making decisions that are in the best interests of the population. However, it's certainly a disappointing opportunity to lose for those student athletes."
Ball State Men's Basketball was scheduled to play Kent State Thursday night in the MAC Quarterfinal matchup. The NCAA recently announced that national tournament games will be closed to the general public. With all the conference tournaments being canceled, it's expected that the regular-season champion from each league will play in the upcoming NCAA Tournament.
Following the press conference, Steinbrecher said he would be meeting with all athletic directors to discuss a "laundry list" of topics based upon the cancelation of the tournament.
"You know what, we're disappointed on a lot of levels, obviously first and foremost for the student-athletes and our fans," Steinbrech said. "We're disappointed about the fact this event has been a pretty significant economic driver within this community and acknowledge that. And let's face it, we're going through an event right now that's going to cause interesting issues with regards to that. I won't claim to know what we're going to do, but acknowledge that there's a lot of people hurting."
The decision to cancel the tournament follows Ball State's decision to move to online-only classes for the semester, which was announced Wednesday night. Goetz said on-campus or off-campus, it's important that they are communicating information as best as they can.
"Any time you have a situation as dynamic is this one, not only with sports but across our campus, it's important that we are communicating information as best as we can," Goetz said. "That includes engaging with our coaching staff and working closely with the MAC office."