The Big Ten announced Thursday morning that it plans to allow 8,000 fans into the upcoming men’s basketball tournament and 2,500 fans into the women’s basketball tournament.
The decision—made in conjunction with the league COP/C, league athletic directors, and the Marion County Health Department in Indianapolis—might come as somewhat of a surprise, depending on your viewpoint. While other leagues have hosted fans for a while now, the Big Ten basketball tournament will be the first league-sponsored event to allow ticket sales since the COVID-19 pandemic exploded last spring.
The league also recently canceled its end-of-the-year conference tournaments for baseball and softball. To this point, family members and media have been the only non-essential personnel allowed to attend games.
The men’s tournament is being held inside Lucas Oil Stadium, home of the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts, this year after being moved from Chicago’s United Center in February. A domed football stadium, 8,000 fans can be socially-distanced with far more ease than a traditional basketball arena. Which would seem to be the main reason for the attendance limit differences between the men and women. The women’s tournament will be held at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, home of the NBA’s Indiana Pacers.
On the men’s side, action begins on March 10. Fred Hoiberg’s Husker team (3-14 in Big Ten play) will play on the opening day in the 13-14 matchup. The women’s tournament will begin on March 9. Amy Williams’ team (9-9 in Big Ten play) is still sorting out its seeding with a game to play against Iowa.
Tickets will go on sale through each school’s ticket office. Further information will be distributed by university ticket offices, including a discounted student ticket program. Only mobile tickets will be taken. Stadium gates will open one hour prior to each session of the tournament to accommodate early arriving fans. The league is also encouraging fans to be aware of the various health and safety protocols enacted at both sites. Lucas Oil Stadium and surrounding cities in Indiana will also host the entire NCAA Tournament this season.