By KEITH TAYLOR, Kentucky Today
The arenas playing host to the Southeastern Conference and Atlantic Coast Conference tournaments will be mostly empty for the rest of the week.
Both leagues announced Wednesday that the remainder of their conference tournaments will be played but without fans because of coronavirus concerns.
The SEC officials said it will conduct the tournament with “only essential staff, limited family and credentialed media” and fans will not permitted to attend games beginning Thursday.
The ACC has said essentially the same for its postseason tournament which started Wednesday as well.
Earlier Wednesday, the NCAA announced that fans would not be permitted to attend the upcoming NCAA Tournament because of ongoing coronavirus concerns.
Top-seed Kentucky opens play in the tournament at 1 p.m. Friday against the winner of the Alabama-Tennessee contest at Bridgestone Arena. Those teams play Thursday.
“I understand how much this tournament means to our fans, especially those who can’t get tickets to Rupp Arena,” said Kentucky coach John Calipari. “Our team is saddened you can’t be in the building with us.”
Calipari said the “health and well-being of our student-athletes, coaches and #BBN must take priority. I know our fan base will show support for these kids through other means.”
He said the UK staff has been in constant contact with the SEC office. “I know this decision by our league did not come lightly.”
“After conferring with local and national health authorities, we remain confident in our ability to safeguard the health and well-being of our student-athletes, coaches and other staff who will be participating as well as the limited number of family members and media who will be in attendance at the tournament,” SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said in a statement released by the league.
For fans who purchased tickets to the SEC Tournament can get automatic refunds of ticket purchases will be made to fans who are the original purchaser of the tickets from SEC Office or an SEC university, or a verified purchaser on the SEC Ticket Exchange powered by Ticketmaster. For regular season events, each campus will determine refund policies and procedures.
The ACC tournament will also be fanless beginning with Thursday’s games, the league office said.
“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,” the league said in a statement.
Louisville, the No. 3 seed in the tournament, will take on the winner of the North Carolina-Syracuse contest at 9 Thursday night in Greensboro.
Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter @keithtaylor21.