On Wednesday evening, the Southeastern Conference announced that the remainder of the 2020 SEC Tournament will not permit fans to attend in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak in the United States.
Earlier on Wednesday, the SEC stated that the games and fan attendance would proceed as normal for Wednesday night’s opening round. But as the league gathered more info and with the NCAA Tournament and the NIT both announcing decisions to not allow fans to attend, the SEC and other Power Five conferences quickly followed.
Only “essential staff, limited family, and credentialed media” will be allowed inside Bridgestone Arena in Nashville to watch the games from Thursday through Sunday.
Tennessee and Alabama are set to play at 1:00 PM Eastern for the first game of the second round on Thursday afternoon. Now, only staff members, families, and media will be in attendance to watch the Vols and Tide in Nashville.
The SEC also added that all regular season contests in all sports on SEC campuses and SEC Championship events “will be conducted with similar attendance restrictions effective Thursday, March 12 through at least March 30 at which time the conference and its member universities will re-evaluate conditions.”
That time frame includes Tennessee baseball’s SEC series at South Carolina this upcoming weekend, their series at home against Vanderbilt from March 20-22, and their series at home against LSU from March 26-28. It also includes midweek games against Georgia State and UT-Martin. The softball team plays series against Texas A&M, Alabama, and Kentucky in that same span as well.
“In light of recent developments beyond our control related to the spread of the coronavirus, including a recommendation from the NCAA COVID-19 Advisory Panel, and after consultation with our member universities, we have made the difficult decision to hold the 2020 SEC Men’s Basketball Tournament in Nashville without spectators beginning with games of Thursday, March 12,” said SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey in a release. “Effective immediately, the policy will also apply to other SEC Championship events and on-campus regular season games scheduled through at least the end of march.”
Tennessee Athletics Director Phillip Fulmer released a statement on the SEC’s decision shortly after the announcement, and he supports Sankey’s choice to not permit fans to attend SEC events for the next three weeks.
“These are difficult circumstances to navigate, and we understand and support the conference’s decisions related to upcoming athletic events,” Fulmer said. “From an institutional standpoint, we’ll continue to rely on the advice and expertise of public health authorities and the university’s Office of Emergency Management as we approach the coming days and weeks with the health of our student-athletes, staff and campus community at the forefront of our decision making.”
The SEC announced that they will be implementing “enhanced health measures” for the 2020 SEC Tournament this week for those who do attend, which includes the use of hospital grade disinfectant in the locker rooms, santitization of game balls and team benches with hospital grade disinfectant, hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipe stations in team locker rooms, and the same at the scorer’s tables, officials’ locker rooms, operations offices, and media areas.
Automatic refunds will be made to all fans who are the original purchaser of tickets from the SEC Office, an SEC university, or a verified purchaser of the SEC Ticket Exchange.
The television broadcast of the SEC Tournament will continue as planned, with the first and second round games and the evening quarterfinal games being televised on The SEC Network and the afternoon quarterfinals, semifinals, and final being televised on ESPN.