As the NCAA Men’s Basketball 2020-2021 regular season schedule is about to begin in the midst of escalating coronavirus pandemic spikes and increasing hospitalizations around the country, the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Committee announced today the relocation of 13 predetermined preliminary round sites for the 2021 Division I Men’s Basketball Championship to one geographic area. The NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Committee has also stated that they currently are considering their tournament options, with the potential relocation of that tournament to one site as well.

Seeking to create the most effective way to plan for its March Madness tournament to determine the 2021 National Champion, the NCAA’s Committee concluded that the conducting of the preliminary rounds of the championship at 13 different locations throughout the United States would be extremely difficult to safely conduct as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to surge. Despite cities like Boise, Dallas, Lexington and San Jose already scheduled to host first and second round games from March 18th through the 21st and Denver, Minneapolis, Brooklyn an Memphis on tap to host the Regional contests from March 25th through the 28th, the Committee concluded that all of the games in the championship should be held in a single geographic area to enhance the safe operation for all of the student-athlete participants. Mitch Barnhart, chair of the Division I Men’s Basketball Committee and University of Kentucky athletics director, commented on the decision,

My committee colleagues and I did not come lightly to the difficult decision to relocate the preliminary rounds of the 2021 tournament, as we understand the disappointment 13 communities will feel to miss out on being part of March Madness.

The NCAA announced that since Indianapolis was already slated to host the Men’s Final Four from April 3 through the 5th, it has already begun preliminary talks with the State of Indiana and the city of Indianapolis to host the entire 68 team tournament in multiple venues in and around the metropolitan area during the same previously scheduled dates for the event.

The Committee emphasized the importance of holding the championship in a “manageable geographic area” in order to limit travel and provide a safe competition environment which has the ability to provide adequate practice venues, medical resources and hotel accommodations for all teams and officials within close proximity to one another.

“We have learned so much from monitoring other successful sporting events in the last several months, and it became clear it’s not feasible to manage this complex championship in so many different states with the challenges presented by the pandemic,” said Dan Gavitt, NCAA Senior Vice President of Basketball. “However, we are developing a solid plan to present a safe, responsible and fantastic March Madness tournament unlike any other we’ve experienced.”

In a public statement on behalf of the NCAA, NCAA President concluded, “The Board of Governors and my top priorities are to protect the health and well-being of college athletes while also maintaining their opportunity to compete at the highest level. These principles have guided the decision-making process as we continue to assess how to have a fair and safe championship experience.”

Jackson Lewis’ Collegiate and Professional Sports Practice Group will continue to the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on collegiate and professional sports. Please feel free to reach out to any member of the Collegiate and Professional Sports Practice Group with questions.

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Photo of Gregg E. Clifton Gregg E. Clifton

Gregg E. Clifton is a Principal in the Phoenix, Arizona, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. He is Co-Leader of the Collegiate and Professional Sports Practice Group and serves as the editor of the firm’s sports law blog.

Mr. Clifton has extensive experience in…

Gregg E. Clifton is a Principal in the Phoenix, Arizona, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. He is Co-Leader of the Collegiate and Professional Sports Practice Group and serves as the editor of the firm’s sports law blog.

Mr. Clifton has extensive experience in the collegiate and professional sports world. He has advised numerous professional franchises on general labor and employment issues, including Title III ADA regulatory compliance and wage and hour issues. He serves as lead counsel for several Major League Baseball teams in their salary arbitration matters and has represented NCAA and NAIA collegiate clients regarding rules compliance, investigatory matters and in disciplinary hearings. In addition, he has handled Title IX investigations and compliance issues for NCAA and NAIA member institutions. Mr. Clifton has also worked extensively in the area of agent regulation and enforcement in professional and college sports and regularly provides counsel on issues relating to NCAA and NAIA amateurism issues and athlete eligibility questions. He has also served as an expert witness in matters involving sports agents’ work and responsibilities, as well as athlete compensation issues.

Prior to joining Jackson Lewis, he spent six years as Chief Operating Officer and Vice President of Team Sports for Gaylord Sports Management. He also served as President of the Athlete and Entertainment Division for famed sports attorney Bob Woolf’s firm, Woolf Associates, in Boston.

Mr. Clifton began his career as an Associate at Jackson Lewis where he focused his practice on traditional labor law. He continues to counsel clients in the areas of collective bargaining negotiations, representation cases, arbitrations and National Labor Relations Board matters.

Mr. Clifton frequently serves as an expert speaker to law schools, including Harvard University, Boston College, Hofstra University and Arizona State University, and bar associations regarding sports law issues, including agent regulation and salary arbitration. He is also often cited as an expert source in national news media for his commentary and opinion on legal issues in sports.