INDIANA (WFIE) - The NCAA says they will stage the entire 2021 men’s basketball championship in Indiana, with the majority of the tournament’s 67 games taking place in Indianapolis.
“Indiana is a basketball state, and we’re beyond excited to safely host the 2021 NCAA men’s Division I, II and III basketball championships here. Games will take place around the state – from Evansville to Indianapolis and from West Lafayette to Fort Wayne. With our deep commitment to public health, strong infrastructure and historic facilities, I have no doubt that this year’s tournaments will be among the best we’ve ever seen,” said Governor Eric Holcomb.
Selection Sunday is still scheduled for March 14, and plans remain to have the Final Four April 3 and 5, with exact preliminary round dates still to be determined.
“This is a historic moment for NCAA members and the state of Indiana,” said NCAA President Mark Emmert. “We have worked tirelessly to reimagine a tournament structure that maintains our unique championship opportunity for college athletes. The reality of today’s announcement was possible thanks to the tremendous leadership of our membership, local authorities and staff.”
The NCAA is partnering with a local health provider to administer COVID-19 testing within the controlled environment for players, coaching staffs, administrators and officials. The Marion County Health Department has approved medical protocols shared by the NCAA and will continue collaborating with the NCAA leading up to and during the championship.
The tournament will be hosted by Ball State University, Butler University, the Horizon League, Indiana University, IUPUI and Purdue University, which are lending their facilities and staff to assist with tournament operations. The Indiana Convention Center will be used as a practice facility, with multiple courts set up inside the venue.
Marriott properties, an official NCAA Corporate Partner, will house most of the tournament teams and are connected to the convention center via skywalks and within a controlled environment. All teams will be housed on dedicated hotel floors, with physically distanced meeting and dining rooms, as well as secure transportation to and from competition venues.
Games will be played on two courts inside Lucas Oil Stadium, as well as Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Hinkle Fieldhouse, Indiana Farmers Coliseum, Mackey Arena in West Lafayette and Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall in Bloomington. Only one game at a time will be played at Lucas Oil Stadium.
“The 2021 version of March Madness will be one to remember, if for no other reason than the uniqueness of the event,” said NCAA senior vice president of basketball Dan Gavitt. “With the direction of the men’s basketball committee, we are making the most of the circumstances the global pandemic has presented. We’re fortunate to have neighbors and partners in Indianapolis and surrounding communities who not only love the game of basketball as much as anyone else in the country but have a storied history when it comes to staging major sporting events.
“This is going to be complicated and difficult; there’s no question about that. We appreciate the collaboration among the men’s basketball committee and staff, our hosts and local organizers, the staffs at each practice and competition venue, and our broadcast and corporate partners. We will all pull together and stage a terrific national championship.”
The NCAA says they closely monitoring the ongoing pandemic and will continue to work with local officials to determine the feasibility of having fans attend games at any of the venues, though a limited number of family members of each participating teams’ student-athletes and coaches will be permitted to attend their team’s games. Details pertaining to the possible allocation of other tickets will be finalized later, as will any decision about fan events.
The NCAA is also working with the city and state to promote “Mask Madness,” an initiative to promote health and safety by practicing social distancing and wearing a mask. As part of this program, the NCAA will donate thousands of masks throughout the state leading up to the tournament.
Indiana Sports Hall of Fame member and long-time 14 News employee Mike Blake covered sports for decades.
”I think it’s tremendous,” Blake shared. “It’s a tremendous boost not only to Indianapolis but the entire state.”
”Indianapolis has done a wonderful job of hosting the Final Four and sometimes, subsequently, tournaments leading up to it,” Blake added. “It’s not by accident that they have brought the Final Four every fifth year back to Indianapolis. This year, because of the pandemic, to be able to have the whole thing there, they will do a super job.”
This “bubble” ensures that each team stays in a controlled environment with required COVID-19 testing. As for the Division 2 Championship, that will play right here in Evansville at the Ford Center.
”Anything we can do to bring these events here to the Tri-State area and to the state of Indiana, we want to be supportive,” Evansville Deputy Mayor Steve Schaefer stated.