Brian Dutcher, center, while coaching his San Diego State Aztecs. Photo credit: goaztecs.com

Local college teams have begun to prepare themselves for NCAA tournaments of a different kind – ones in front of empty arenas, due to the spread of the coronavirus.

The NCAA announced Wednesday that only essential personnel and close family would be allowed to attend games during March Madness and other college championships.

“While I understand how disappointing this is for fans of our sports, my decision is based on the current understanding of how COVID-19 is progressing in the United States,” NCAA president Mark Emmert said in a statement Wednesday.

Wags quickly dubbed the development “March Sadness.”

San Diego State coach Brian Dutcher told XTRA 1360 that he understood the NCAA’s decision given the concerns for public health.

Aztec KJ Feagin though expressed his frustration in advance of the decision. His San Diego State team accumulated a 30-2 record in the regular season and eagerly awaits tournament seedings, to be revealed Sunday.

He told the station he would be, “very, very, very upset, just like any other athlete” if the NCAA Tournament didn’t go on in front of fans as usual.

UC San Diego is affected as well. The CCAA Tournament champions host a men’s Division II regional that will begin Friday on their home court, RIMAC Arena.

Officials said that as many as 20 members of the team’s official traveling party will receive up to six complimentary tickets. Family members can attempt to obtain passes. They were encouraged to “work with their institution on access.”

Other affected events at UCSD include regular season play – a women’s water polo match Friday and home baseball games Friday through Sunday.

– Staff reports

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