Photo: Jamie Schwaberow/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

The NCAA men's and women's basketball tournaments will be played without fans, NCAA president Mark Emmert announced in a statement Wednesday.

Why it matters: The shock announcement comes days before Selection Sunday will kick off March Madness, one of the most highly anticipated sporting events of the year. The World Health Organization announced Wednesday that it classified the novel coronavirus outbreak as a pandemic.

What they're saying:

"The NCAA continues to assess the impact of COVID-19 in consultation with public health officials and our COVID-19 advisory panel. Based on their advice and my discussions with the NCAA Board of Governors, I have made the decision to conduct our upcoming championship events, including the Division I men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, with only essential staff and limited family attendance.
While I understand how disappointing this is for all fans of our sports, my decision is based on the current understanding of how COVID-19 is progressing in the United States. This decision is in the best interest of public health, including that of coaches, administrators, fans and, most importantly, our student-athletes. We recognize the opportunity to compete in an NCAA national championship is an experience of a lifetime for the students and their families. Today, we will move forward and conduct championships consistent with the current information and will continue to monitor and make adjustments as needed."
— Mark Emmert

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