With the coronavirus pandemic ongoing, the NCAA decided to hold the tournament in one locale to cut down on travel and ensure a bubblelike environment.
“Conducting the championship in one geographic region allows for more planning and execution of safeguards that provide potential benefits for promoting the health and safety of student-athletes, the NCAA membership and all individuals involved in the championship,” Nina King, senior deputy athletic director and chief of staff at Duke and chair of the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Committee, said in the statement. “By making this difficult decision now, it allows for an earlier opportunity to work proactively with local public health officials within the host communities and ensures that the identified guidelines and protocols are considered for a more controlled environment.”
The first two rounds of the NCAA women’s tournament traditionally are held on the campuses of the top 16 seeds before the teams move on to four regional sites, which this season were supposed to be Austin; Cincinnati; Spokane, Wash.; and Albany, N.Y. King said those cities will be given the chance to host regionals again at future tournaments.
Last month, the NCAA announced that it would hold the entire men’s basketball tournament in one general location and that it had begun discussions with Indianapolis officials about hosting the event. That tournament usually is held at 13 sites across the country.
“It will be a very controlled environment,” NCAA senior vice president of basketball Dan Gavitt said. “It’ll be different, it’ll be historic, and it’ll be hopefully something we all treasure and experience just once, hopefully not ever again.”
Last season’s NCAA basketball tournaments were canceled for the first time in history because of the pandemic, which was only just beginning in the United States at the time. College basketball has since gotten off to a sluggish start this season, with hundreds of games postponed or canceled as teams are affected by the virus.