KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Beginning Thursday, attendance at all Big 12 Tournament games will be heavily restricted, according to the league’s commissioner.
Before Oklahoma State and Iowa State tipped off the first of two of opening round contests Wednesday night, commissioner Bob Bowlsby announced the conference’s decision to limit fan access to the tournament, saying that several entities — including the NCAA, the CDC and local health officials in Kansas City — were consulted before these restrictions were implemented.
“The attempt is to absolutely minimize the number of people that are here but still to find a way to conduct the events and actually get the opportunity to play the games,” Bowlsby said.
The commissioner said teams will be granted access to 125 tickets per game, and that the arenas will be cleared after the conclusion of each contest. Along with limiting fan access to games, the Big 12 will bar cheerleaders, dance teams and pep bands from attending the tournaments.
These restrictions will apply to both the men’s basketball tournament at Sprint Center and the women’s basketball tournament at Municipal Auditorium.
“Obviously, we don’t do this lightly,” Bowlsby said. “We are blessed to have the best basketball tournament in all of college basketball, and to have to take these steps is painful for everyone that’s involved, but these are unusual times, and so we have taken the steps that we think are appropriate.”
Fans were allowed to attend Thursday’s first round games as usual. Bowlsby’s official announcement came just minutes before the men’s tournament tipped off. But the commissioner said that after “an interesting day with a lot of decisions,” the restrictions were put into place.
“Until today, we had had no one tell us that a building full of people was ill-advised. That had been my public comment. I was confident in being in the crowd, and we were assured that it was safe to assemble those crowds. Today, that began to change,” Bowlsby said. “Certainly, the NCAA’s information is a part of it.”
Bowlsby added that the conference will next determine how ticket holders could receive refunds for the now-restricted postseason games.
“I understand and support Commissioner Bob Bowlsby’s decision to go to a limited access protocol for the 2020 Big 12 men’s and women’s basketball championships,” WVU athletic director Shane Lyons said in a statement. “Based on the recommendation of medical professionals, it is a necessary decision to help curb the threat of spreading the COVID-19. We will announce information on refunds for the fans who purchased all-session tickets through the Mountaineer Ticket Office in the coming days.”
Earlier this week, the Big 12 issued a restriction on media access to players and coaches. Bowlsby indicated that further restrictions could be enforced during the tournament, but that credentialed media will still be permitted to attend games.