The National College Players Association, a nonprofit advocating for the rights and safety of collegiate athletes, is calling on the NCAA to consider holding NCAA tournament games without fans due to its concern over coronavirus.
“In the wake of the emerging coronavirus pandemic, the NCAA and its colleges should take precautions to protect college athletes,” the group wrote in a public statement Saturday. “In regard to the NCAA’s March Madness tournament and other athletic events, there should be a serious discussion about holding competitions without an audience present. …The NCAA and its colleges must act now, there is no time to waste.”
The NCPA was launched as a nonprofit group by former UCLA football players, including the group’s executive director, Ramogi Huma, in 2001 with the aim of advocating for athletes. Its website pegs the group as “the only independent voice for college athletes across the nation.” The NCPA claims to have more than 20,000 members.
Amid concerns that a potential outbreak of the coronavirus in the U.S. could jeopardize major sporting events, the NCAA’s Sports Science Institute issued memos earlier this week to its members, directing schools toward Centers for Disease Control resources while maintaining preparations for the upcoming NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments.
“NCAA staff continues to prepare for March Madness but we are keenly aware of coronavirus and will continue to monitor in coordination with state/local health authorities and the CDC,” NCAA associate director of communications Chris Radford said Tuesday.
Reached for comment Saturday regarding the NCPA’s recommendation, the NCAA said it stands by Radford’s Tuesday statement. The NCPA did not return messages left by USA TODAY Sports on Saturday afternoon.
Nancy Messonnier, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, warned Tuesday that an outbreak of the virus could lead to school closings and the cancellation of major sporting events.
Also included in NCPA’s public statement: “(The NCAA) should also make public which actions will be taken and when. Precautions should include cancelling all auxiliary events that put players in contact with crowds such as meet and greets and press events. Athletic programs should also take every possible measure to sanitize buses and airplanes used to transport players.”
Contributing: Paul Myerberg, USA TODAY Sports