The First Four matchups in Indianapolis will kick off the 2021 NCAA Tournament on Thursday.
When it comes to COVID-19 procedures, however, the college basketball community is holding its breath, and the NCAA has put in place rigorous steps to ensure that the event will take place and that the organization’s member institutions will deposit the huge check from CBS and Turner.
With that in mind, the bulk of the attention has been focused on teams like Virginia and Kansas, who are both quarantining this week after struggling with COVID-19 problems during their conference tournaments. However, Stadium’s Jeff Goodman reported on Monday that the first, and hopefully last, COVID-19 issue in Indianapolis occurred with officials.
Six tournament officials have been “removed,” according to Goodman, only one positive result has been found, with touch tracing putting the others in the crosshairs. The six-person party includes well-known officials such as John Higgins and Ted Valentine, and the NCAA only has 60 officials in Indianapolis, according to sources.
According to the stadium’s news, the referees went to a steakhouse in Indianapolis after arriving at the hotel and discovering that rooms were not ready and food was unavailable. The decision had repercussions, as one of the officials officially tested positive upon return, and all six were ruled out due to touch tracing due to the meal shared together.
This is a familiar story to anyone who has followed sports in the last year, with touch tracing impacting a slew of athletes, coaches, and teams along the way. However, since the NCAA now has a smaller pool of referees to use in Indianapolis, this may have far-reaching consequences.
Hopefully, this won’t happen again with any of the teams quarantining themselves in their hotel rooms before taking the court this week, but it won’t allay any concerns about how easily things might snowball in the NCAA’s pseudo-bubble.