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Six officials for the men’s NCAA Tournament in Indianapolis have been sent home by the NCAA after one of them tested positive for COVID-19.
The NCAA determined through contact tracing the other five also needed to be removed. The officials are some of the most high-profile in the sport, including Ted Valentine, John Higgins, Kipp Kissinger and Roger Ayers.
“The NCAA has replaced several officials for March Madness because of a positive COVID-19 test. One official tested positive March 15, and five other officials the person interacted with the day before were identified as exposure risks due to prolonged close contact,” an NCAA official said in a statement to USA TODAY Sports.
“Based on tournament protocols and contract tracing with local public health authorities, these officials may not participate in the tournament. The infected official must be placed in isolation, and the other officials must be placed in quarantine. Four replacement officials have been previously approved and meet the pre-tournament testing protocols. Two of the officials will not be replaced.”
Stadium was first to report the news.
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Referee Ted Valentine looks on during a game between Pittsburgh and Syracuse on Jan. 6, 2021. (Photo: Rich Barnes, USA TODAY Sports)
The officials had been instructed to arrive in Indianapolis, where the 68-team tournament kicks off Friday, by Sunday night, according to CBS Sports. The officials were supposed to check into their hotels and remain there. When they arrived, the rooms were not ready and no food was available, so the group was granted permission to leave the hotel to get food. Some of the officials in the group went out.
When they took COVID-19 tests, one of the officials was positive.
The NCAA has protocols in place for players, coaches, team personnel and officials for the men’s and women’s tournaments in an effort to reduce the risk of spreading the coronavirus as the pandemic that forced the tournaments to be canceled a year ago continues.
Some of those protocols include asking people to remain in their hotels, including for meals, unless they are in transit to or from an arena or playing at an arena.
Indianapolis and San Antonio and nearby areas, site of the women’s tournament, were selected by the NCAA in an effort to keep the footprint smaller and limit travel, which normally would include cross-country trips and multiple hotel stays as teams advance.
The news comes one day after the NCAA revealed the men’s bracket and three days after Virginia and Kansas had to pull out of their respective conference tournaments because of COVID-19 protocols. Both teams made the field and must produce seven consecutive days of negative tests for their travel party to be allowed to participate. Once on site, teams must have five players test negative to remain eligible.
Contributing: Dan Wolken
Follow Heather Tucker on Twitter @HeatherR_Tucker
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