INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Six officials won’t be working the NCAA Tournament because one tested positive for COVID-19 and five others were deemed close contacts after arriving in Indianapolis.
NCAA senior vice president of basketball Dan Gavitt confirmed the details Tuesday. CBS Sports first reported that the officials received permission to leave for dinner together when their rooms weren’t ready and no food was available as they arrived at their hotel.
They later returned to the hotel and one of the officials tested positive. The amount of time they would have to quarantine meant they wouldn’t be available for the entirety of the tournament, which begins Thursday with four games before 16 more on Friday.
“Everyone’s responsibility is to make their own decisions to be safe and healthy and ready to participate,” Gavitt said. “This is a virus we don’t control. It controls us. Not just from an event standpoint but an individual standpoint, we try to put safeguards in place to protect everyone’s health and safety and the integrity of the event, but it can’t be perfect. It’s not going to ever be perfect in a pandemic.”
Gavitt didn’t name the six officials who were removed. He expressed confidence their removals wouldn’t dilute the quality of officiating.
He noted that when the pool of 60 officials was selected for the NCAA Tournament, another 17 alternates continued to test in case they were needed. Four of those alternates have arrived in Indianapolis to replace the six who were removed.
The tournament usually has 109 officials on hand, Gavitt said.
“We had to narrow that scope this year to 60 just because of the unusual nature of having this all in a controlled environment in one city,” he said. “But if you extrapolate that 77 who were identified and approved – an additional 17 as replacement officials – you’re still way within the number we use on an annual basis of 109. It’s a great opportunity for some additional officials due to an unfortunate circumstance, but we’re very confident we’ll have an outstanding staff for the tournament.”
As far as the tournament itself, Gavitt said there have been five positive results out of 2,300 overall completed tests but cautioned those positives didn’t necessarily involve team personnel. The collection of 2,300 tests also includes event staff and other people not associated with the teams, who are nearly all in Indianapolis as required.
“Teams have been very cooperative,” Gavitt said. “Things are going quite well, but no one’s letting their guard down. No one’s making any assumptions about the lack of challenges going forward. So far, so good.”
Gavitt said he doesn’t anticipate a need to replace any of the 68 teams in the bracket at this time. Virginia, which withdrew from last week’s Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament due to a positive test, is the only team that hasn’t yet arrived in Indianapolis.
Kansas is also dealing with virus cases and Georgia Tech coach Josh Pastner said Tuesday that someone in the team’s traveling party tested positive ahead of Friday’s game against Loyola Chicago.
“It’s a gut punch,” Pastner said. “It stinks.”
The New York Times reported that the NCAA is now allowing teams to start practicing once they’ve received negative test results separated by at least 12 hours. The NCAA’s initial health guidelines said teams must remain quarantined and couldn’t practice until two consecutive tests on separate days were confirmed negative.
Gavitt said the move was a “practical adjustment” made to accommodate teams that arrived in Indianapolis late at night. He said any changes were approved by local health officials.