Ohio governor recommends indoor sports are played without fans, Blue Jackets defy warning

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Ohio governor Mike DeWine has recommended that indoor athletic events in the state take place without any spectators in a move to contain the global coronavirus outbreak.

DeWine’s recommendation, which followed discussions with the Ohio High School Athletic Association and the state’s professional teams, extends to events at the high school, college, and professional sports levels.

These would include the Mid-American Conference men’s and women’s basketball tournaments; the “First Four” of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament played as well as March Madness first- and second-round games; the National Basketball Association’s Cleveland Cavaliers; and the National Hockey League’s Columbus Blue Jackets, as well as other teams and events.

DeWine’s statement was a recommendation, rather than a requirement. As such, the Blue Jackets ruled that fans were welcome to attend their two games at Nationwide Arena this week.

“The Columbus Blue Jackets are aware of the recommendation by Governor DeWine,” the team said in a statement. “We have been in contact with the National Hockey League and, given the facts before us, it has been determined that our scheduled games, including this Thursday vs. Pittsburgh and Saturday vs. Nashville, will go on as scheduled and be open to ticketed fans that wish to attend.”

However, the Mid-American Conference said it was following the recommendation and implementing a restricted attendance policy at its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse in Cleveland this week.

“The safety of all is our greatest concern,” MAC commissioner Jon Steinbrecher said in a statement. “Since January, I have stated that any decision would follow the advice of state governmental officials and medical professionals. Following the feedback we received today we have taken this action, which is in alignment with the recommendation of Governor DeWine.”

The Big West Conference also said its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments in Southern California will be played without spectators. Most of those games will be held at the Honda Center in Anaheim.

Meanwhile, the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Athletics department announced that home events will be limited to essential personnel only at least until April 10, or until further notice.

Earlier on Tuesday, the Ivy League controversially decided to cancel its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments in response to the coronavirus crisis, rather than play the games behind closed doors.