There will be no March Madness in Boise in 2021.
The NCAA announced Monday it plans to hold the entire 2021 men’s college basketball tournament in one geographic location to mitigate the risks of COVID-19 and is in talks with Indianapolis to be the host city.
That means first and second round games previously scheduled at ExtraMile Arena in Boise will no longer happen.
“We are obviously incredibly disappointed, but understand the decision to move the NCAA Tournament to a single geographic area for 2021,” interim Boise State athletic director Bob Carney said in a statement. “Boise State University, Boise State Athletics and the City of Boise were looking forward to once again showcasing one of the best tournament environments in the country, as we have done several times before.”
This would have been Boise’s 10th time hosting the tournament, which in 2018 brought an estimated $15 million boost to the local economy, Boise State Public Radio reported.
Boise’s position as host was in question before this week’s decision. The NCAA Board of Presidents faced calls to reconsider Boise as a host site after Idaho’s Fairness in Women’s Sports Act took effect in July, banning transgender girls and women from playing school-sponsored sports on teams that match their gender identity. The board was scheduled to discuss its response in August but delayed a decision.
The Final Four is already set to be held in Indianapolis next April and the NCAA has its headquarters in the Indiana capital.
Early-round games had been scheduled in Boise and 12 other predetermined sites across the country with regionals in Minneapolis, Denver, Memphis, Tennessee, and New York City, with the First Four in Dayton, Ohio.
The NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Committee determined moving those to one location would allow a safe and controlled environment with venues, practice facilities, lodging and medical resources all near one another.
“Trying to run an event of 68 teams, 67 games over the course of three weeks in a safe and responsible way really needed to be managed in a much controlled, singular environment,” NCAA senior vice president of basketball Dan Gavitt told NCAA.com.
“The committee has made a really sound decision here, disappointing as it is to go away from our valued hosts for 13 different sites from First Four through the regionals,” he said. “Condensing this to one geographic area that we can do it in a more safe and responsible way is where we need to be.”
Future sites through 2026 have been announced, and the tournament is not scheduled to return to Boise during that time.
Boise State University, which would have hosted the 2021 games, announced that tickets prepurchased for the tournament were through the NCAA, so Boise State’s ticket office is unable to process refunds. The NCAA will handle issuing those in the near future.
The NCAA set a Nov. 25 start date for the season as it tries to bounce back from the two lucrative tournaments being canceled last spring due to the coronavirus pandemic. Cancellation of the NCAA Tournament led to a $375 million shortfall in revenue distributed to member institutions, putting a huge strain on athletic departments across the country.
Schools have scrambled to fill schedules while the coronavirus has wreaked havoc on college football, causing the cancellation of more than 60 games. Multiple basketball programs are currently on pause due to COVID-19 and the Ivy League announced last week the cancellation of winter sports, including men’s and women’s basketball.
Gavitt said there is no plan to change the Nov. 25 start date and the plan is for the NCAA Tournament to be played in March and April as scheduled. No determination has been made on whether fans will be allowed, a decision that will also face individual conferences as their tournaments approach in March.
NCAA President Mark Emmert earlier floated the idea of playing the NCAA Tournament in a bubble after the NBA and NHL managed to complete their seasons with similar setups.
It might be a while before the women’s basketball committee decides what it wants to do with the tournament. Since 2015, the first two rounds have been played on home campuses of the top 16 seeds. Those aren’t known until Selection Monday, so there are no predetermined sites.
The women’s Final Four next March is set for San Antonio and the regionals are supposed to be played in Albany, New York, Austin, Texas, Cincinnati and Spokane, Washington.
AP Basketball Writer Doug Feinberg and Idaho Press reporter B.J. Rains contributed.