The NCAA has been forced to make adjustments to its officiating lineup for the men's NCAA tournament.
The governing body said Monday night that six officials wouldn't work the tournament after one of the six tested positive for COVID-19 earlier in the day. The other five officials can't work the tournament because of prolonged close contact with the official that tested positive for coronavirus.
“The NCAA has replaced several officials for March Madness because of a positive COVID-19 test," the NCAA said in a statement given to multiple media outlets. "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. Based on tournament protocols and contact 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.”
According to Stadium, officials Ted Valentine and John Higgins are among the six officials who are now unable to work the tournament. Per Stadium's report, the officials went out to dinner together on Sunday night after their hotel rooms were not ready for them to use. The infected official's first positive test reportedly came after they came back from dinner and that official then tested positive again on Monday.
The NCAA brought fewer officials than normal to the 2021 men's tournament because of the coronavirus protocols that are in place. Teams playing in the tournament are being tested regularly and quarantining before the event begins on Thursday.
As of now, Kansas and Virginia are expected to play in the NCAA tournament despite having to pull out of their respective conference tournaments because of positive COVID-19 tests. Both Kansas and Virginia are in the West Region and begin tournament play on Saturday.
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