ACC tournament will go on … but without fans in the stands

The ACC, following the lead of the NCAA and major conferences across the country, has decided to close its doors to fans for the remainder of the event out of concerns over the spreading coronavirus crisis

The ACC will hold the remainder of its men’s conference tournament at Greensboro Coliseum, but fans — like these seen before Tuesday’s tournament opener between Pitt and Wake Forest — will not be allowed to attend. (Robert Clark / North State Journal)

GREENSBORO — The ACC Tournament was once one of the toughest tickets in all of sports to get. Starting Thursday, it will be an impossible ticket to get.

That’s because the ACC, following the lead of the NCAA and several other major college conferences across the country, has decided to close its doors to fans for the remainder of the event out of concerns over the spreading coronavirus crisis.

The games will go on as scheduled, but beginning with Thursday’s first quarterfinal session, they will played without fans in the stands, according to a release issued by the ACC on Wednesday.

“In light of the rapidly changing landscape regarding COVID-19, the latest developments nationally from health authorities and today’s announcement by the NCAA COVID-19 Advisory Panel, the ACC will alter the remainder of the ACC Tournament,” the release stated. 

“After consultation with the league’s presidents and athletic directors, it was determined that beginning Thursday, March 12, all games will be played with only essential tournament personnel, limited school administrators and student-athlete guests, broadcast television and credentialed media members present.”

More than 1,200 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, including 37 deaths, have been reported across the U.S. as of Wednesday afternoon. Eight of those cases have been reported in North Carolina.

Coronaviruses are a family of hundreds of viruses that can cause fever, respiratory problems and, in some cases, gastrointestinal symptoms. 

They are spread through human contact, usually thorough droplets of saliva carried in the air for up to six feet when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Viral particles can be breathed in, land on surfaces that people touch, or be transferred when shaking hands or sharing a drink with someone who has the virus.

ACC and Greensboro Coliseum officials took measures to try and prevent the spread of the coronavirus among fans attending the tournament by installing extra hand sanitizing stations and wiping down seats between each session.

But by Wednesday’s second session, with the NCAA having already announced that fans would not be allowed to attend games in its national tournament — which starts next week at eight regional sites, including Greensboro — the ACC quickly fell in line.

According to NCAA president Mark Emmert, the decision to play the games without fans was made in the interest of public health. 

“The decision was based on a combination of the information provided by national and state officials, by the advisory team that we put together of medical experts from across the country, and looking at what was going to be in the best interest of our student-athletes, of course. But also the public health implications of all of this,” Emmert told the Associated Press, adding that a cancellation of the tournament was also discussed. “We recognize our tournaments bring people from all around the country together. They’re not just regional events. They’re big national events. It’s a very, very hard decision for all the obvious reasons.”

No information has been given yet pertaining to refunds for ticket holders to either the ACC or NCAA tournaments