The Mid-American Conference on Tuesday announced a “restricted attendance policy” for its men’s and women’s postseason tournaments in Cleveland, closing both events to the general public.
The decision came hours after Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine recommended that sporting events at indoor facilities in the state take place without spectators.
Credentialed institutional personnel, family members of student-athletes, credentialed media, broadcast crews and official team party members will be allowed to attend the MAC tournaments, which begin Wednesday and run through Saturday at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse.
“The safety of all is our greatest concern,” MAC commissioner Jon Steinbrecher said in a statement. “Since January, I have stated that any decision would follow the advice of state governmental officials and medical professionals. Following the feedback we received today we have taken this action, which is in alignment with the recommendation of Governor DeWine.”
The Columbus Blue Jackets, meanwhile, will play their home games Thursday and Saturday in front of fans.
“The Columbus Blue Jackets are aware of the recommendation by Governor DeWine,” the team said in a statement. “We have been in contact with the National Hockey League and, given the facts before us, it has been determined that our scheduled games, including this Thursday vs. Pittsburgh and Saturday vs. Nashville, will go on as scheduled and be open to ticketed fans that wish to attend.”
In response to DeWine’s recommendation, the NCAA issued a statement Tuesday that read, “The NCAA continues to assess how COVID-19 impacts the conduct of our tournaments and events. We are consulting with public health officials and our COVID-19 advisory panel, who are leading experts in epidemiology and public health, and will make decisions in the coming days.”
Dayton Arena is scheduled to host the NCAA First Four on March 17-18, and Rocket Mortgage Arena in Cleveland is set to host first- and second-round men’s and women’s NCAA games.
Ohio State is scheduled to host Michigan at Nationwide Arena in the Big Ten men’s hockey semifinals on Sunday.
The Cleveland Cavaliers, who kicked off a six-game road trip Tuesday in Chicago, do not have a home game until March 24. Cavs coach J.B. Bickerstaff said he is trusting the league to make any decisions in the wake of DeWine’s recommendation.
“People are obviously trying to do what they believe is best for everyone,” Bickerstaff said. “We’re in a league that does a great job of forward thinking and preparation, and whatever the league comes up with, it’ll be the best for our fans and our players and all the people that work within the organizations and around the league, and we’ll just follow what they seem to think is best and at this point. They’re putting their plan in place, so as we have conversations moving forward, we’ll do what we need to do in order to protect our fans and our players.”
DeWine declared a state of emergency and said the state had confirmed its first three cases of the coronavirus and continues to test for additional cases. Ohio State University has announced its classes will be conducted online, at least until March 30.
ESPN’s Eric Woodyard contributed to this report.