What we learned from NCAA Senior VP of Basketball Dan Gavitt's post-tournament news conference
The NCAA Tournament is officially over after Baylor knocked off previously unbeaten Gonzaga in a dominant 86-70 national championship-clinching win Monday.
With the NCAA's first-ever all-Indiana single-site tournament in the rear view, NCAA Senior Vice President of Basketball Dan Gavitt met with reporters to discuss what went into to hosting the tournament and the challenges that arose during their monthlong stay in Indiana.
Here's what we learned:
COVID testing numbers
Of the 28,311 COVID-19 tests conducted during the tournament, 15 people tested positive, which is a positivity rate of 1/20th of 1%, Gavitt said.
The VCU men's basketball team was pulled from the tournament shortly before its first-round matchup against Oregon because of positive tests within the program.
One official tested positive before the tournament started, forcing the five other officials who went to dinner with the positive official to also be held out of the tournament.
Effective COVID plan?
Despite the precautions taken to ensure player safety, one fan died after attending an NCAA Tournament game and St. Elmo's experienced a COVID outbreak as nine workers tested positive, forcing the restaurant to temporarily close Saturday. Current and former employees say longtime bartender Michael Gaines died Saturday after being tested for the virus about a week prior.
Gavitt said the NCAA is working closely with Dr. Virginia Caine and the Marion County Public Health Department as well as other local health authorities to provide information on contact tracing and quarantining for fans who attended tournament games.
He called the deaths a "terrible tragedy," but said he felt safety precautions were put in place to keep fans safe.
"I do feel that we had a good plan in place that was executed well with the approval of the local health officials, both here in Marion County but also in Tippecanoe County and Monroe County where games also took place at IU and Purdue," Gavitt said.
"We had very limited capacity, we had contactless concessions and food. ... Masks of course were required 100% of the time. And as I noted in the bubble, clearly I think there was considerable success with risk mitigation testing that took place and we are very confident we're sending teams home very safely and negative."
Gavitt added that while several teams ordered takeout from St. Elmo's, none of the staff responsible for putting together the takeout meals were part of the outbreak.
"I think we had over 3,500 meals delivered into the controlled environment, and even the delivery of those meals never touched hands with anyone that was being tested on a daily basis," Gavitt said.
"We had kind of drop-off areas that were like a vacuum between there and the folks to pick it up internally that were being tested, so the contactless portion of that was critically important."
173,592 fans attended the 66 March Madness games, about a quarter of the attendance during the 2019 tournament.
Saturday's Final Four games had 8,131 fans, less than the 8,300 capacity at Lucas Oil Stadium. The national championship had 7,923 fans in attendance. Gavitt said fans at each game were physically distanced, with seating pods of two, four and six seats per households and contactless options for food.
"I think we have good confidence that we were providing a safe and responsible environment for fans to enjoy the incredible competition," Gavitt said.
Gavitt credited the Indiana Sports Corp and its corporate sponsors for helping provide food and necessities for 68 teams spread across four hotels and the convention center. Gavitt said there was some anxiety about coordinating an operation with so many moving parts, but as the tournament progressed and the tournament field shrunk, the logistics of the tournament became easier to navigate.
Future single-site tournaments
With the success of the single-site tournament, is there consideration for future single-site NCAA Tournaments? No, at least not in the near future. Barring another pandemic, the NCAA Tournament will go back to its regional format for the earlier rounds with the Final Four taking place in a single city, according to Gavitt.
The 2022 Final Four will be held in Houston, followed by Phoenix, San Antonio and Indianapolis.