Wednesday afternoon, CJ Walker spoke with eagerness about the two-dozen family members planning to watch him play in his hometown during the Big Ten tournament.
Now, the question of how many of them — or any — will be allowed through the doors at Bankers Life Fieldhouse is in doubt. Hours after the Ohio State junior spoke with reporters before leaving with his teammates for Indianapolis, the Big Ten has announced that as a result of the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus), it is closing the final four days of its conference tournament to everyone aside from what was described in a release as "student-athletes, coaches, event staff, essential team and conference staff, TV network partners, credentialed media and immediate family members of the participating teams."
The announcement came on the first day of the tournament, which saw Minnesota play Northwestern in the opening game and Indiana face Nebraska in the nightcap in front of fans. All fans who purchased tickets for the tournament, even those who attended Wednesday’s games, will be given a refund and should direct their inquiries to their original point of purchase.
It also means that the Buckeyes, who begin tournament play Thursday at 6:30 p.m. against Purdue, will not play in front of typical crowds again this season. In addition to the Big Ten’s announcement, the NCAA has announced that it is closing the entire Division I men’s basketball tournament to the public and is likewise issuing ticket refunds.
The announcement came two hours after NCAA president Mark Emmert released a statement staying, in part that, "We do believe sport events can take place with only essential personnel and limited family attendance, and this protects the players, employees, and fans."
It’s not the only drastic change for the men’s basketball program. Per a new university mandate, the Buckeyes coaching staff will not be allowed to recruit off campus this spring.
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