The NCAA announced Monday it has finalized plans to hold the entire NCAA tournament in Indiana with the majority of the 67 games to be played in Indianapolis.
© Charlie Nye/IndyStar
Final Four games were played at Lucas Oil Stadium in 2015. The Final Four will return to Indianapolis in 2021 and 2026.
What is an unprecedented move comes in response to unprecedented challenges.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which forced the cancellation of last year's tournament, has already caused significant disruption across college basketball. Games have been canceled or postponed, and several programs around the country have had to pause activity midseason because of the virus.
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Holding the tournament in one centralized location, the NCAA hopes, will make the logistics of doing so safely and smoothly more manageable. College campuses in Indiana will host games.
Games will be played on two courts inside Lucas Oil Stadium, as well as Bankers Life Fieldhouse (Indianapolis), Butler's Hinkle Fieldhouse (Indianapolis), Indiana Farmers Coliseum (Indianapolis), Purdue's Mackey Arena (West Lafayette) and Indiana's Assembly Hall (Bloomington). Only one game at a time will be played at Lucas Oil Stadium.
"The 2021 version of March Madness will be one to remember, if for no other reason than the uniqueness of the event,” NCAA senior vice president of basketball Dan Gavitt said in a news release. “... We’re fortunate to have neighbors and partners in Indianapolis and surrounding communities who not only love the game of basketball as much as anyone else in the country but have a storied history when it comes to staging major sporting events.
“This is going to be complicated and difficult; there’s no question about that. We appreciate the collaboration among the men’s basketball committee and staff, our hosts and local organizers, the staffs at each practice and competition venue, and our broadcast and corporate partners. We will all pull together and stage a terrific national championship.”
According to the news release, the Indiana Convention Center will be used as a practice facility. Marriott properties will house most of the tournament teams, and all teams will be living in dedicated hotel floors.
Video: Entire NCAA men's basketball tournament to be held in Indiana (WLKY Louisville)
The NCAA's men's basketball committee announced Nov. 16 that it was in preliminary talks with Indiana to hold the entire 68-team tournament. Indianapolis was already scheduled to host the Final Four from April 3-5. The NCAA preferred to host the tournament at a single site rather than its typical 13 spread around the country, which it said "would be very difficult to execute" during the pandemic.
"Indianapolis has a reputation for hosting the most successful major sporting events in the country – including eight Final Fours," Mayor Joe Hogsett tweeted in November. "Our city also boasts some of the nation’s top public health professionals, whose expertise will be crucial in planning for a safe tournament."
Last month, Purdue athletic director MIke Bobinski said the school has had conversations with the NCAA about hosting tournament games.
“We’re more than happy and willing to do everything we can to be a good partner and be able to host as many as four games over two days,” Bobinski said on the Purdue Sports Weekly radio show. “We’re hopeful that gets done. We want to be part of the solution.”
"We welcome this tremendous opportunity for our city and are confident that we could make this an incredible, and safe experience for all involved," said Indiana Sports Corp president Ryan Vaughn.
CBS Sports and Turner Sports will continue to distribute all 67 games of the tournament across TBS, CBS, TNT and truTV, according to the November news release.
The sport has come under scrutiny from major college basketball voices, namely Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, about forcing the season to start too early and cramming in games for the sake of March Madness as a product. Dozens of non-conference games were canceled or postponed due to positive COVID-19 tests, as the season began during a major spike in the virus that saw the CDC call for people not to travel. The roughshod season prompted Krzyzewski and others to demand more transparency from the NCAA with athletes putting their physical and mental health at risk by playing during a surge in the pandemic.
The NCAA has made it clear this is a one-year solution to a problem everyone hopes will be off the table by 2022. But given the deep relationship between the city and the NCAA, and Indy's reputation as an ideal site for big events, it's one both sides are confident can work.
“It’ll be different,” Gavitt said in November. “It’ll be historic. And it will be something we treasure and hopefully experience just once … and never again.”
Follow IndyStar reporter Zach Osterman on Twitter: @ZachOsterman.
Contributing: Scott Gleeson, USA TODAY Sports
This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: It's official: 2021 NCAA tournament to be played in Indiana