NCAA will not hold First Four in Dayton in 2021

DAYTON — The NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Committee has announced the relocation of the 13 predetermined preliminary round sites for the 2021 Division I Men’s Basketball Championship in March.

Those relocations includes moving the First Four out of Dayton, according to the announcement.

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The First Four portion of March Madness has a $4.5 million economic impact on the Dayton region, according to Jacquelyn Powell, President of the Dayton Convention and Visitors Bureau.

“My committee colleagues and I did not come lightly to the difficult decision to relocate the preliminary rounds of the 2021 tournament, as we understand the disappointment 13 communities will feel to miss out on being part of March Madness next year,” said Mitch Barnhart, chair of the Division I Men’s Basketball Committee and University of Kentucky athletics director.

The NCAA announcement follows Winter Guard International’s cancellation of its in-person World Championships in the Dayton in Spring 2021. The WGI World Championships generate $24.7 million in direct spending to the Dayton area economy.

“This will represent a difficult loss for the local hospitality community in 2021, and is another example of the damaging impact the coronavirus continues to have on the travel and tourism industry," Powell said following WGI’s announcement.

The NCAA is in preliminary talked with Indiana and the city of Indianapolis to potentially host the 68-team tournament around the metropolitan area during dates in March and April. Indianapolis was already planning to host the Final Four.

The committee engaged in contingency planning in recent weeks to determine the most effective way to conduct a safe March Madness for all teams, according to the announcement.

The committee decided it was importnat to conduct the tournament in a geographic area that limits travel, not unlike similar bubble-like scenarios used in the NHL, NBA, MLB and MLS during the pandemic.

“We have learned so much from monitoring other successful sporting events in the last several months, and it became clear it’s not feasible to manage this complex championship in so many different states with the challenges presented by the pandemic,” said Dan Gavitt, NCAA Senior Vice President of Basketball. “However, we are developing a solid plan to present a safe, responsible and fantastic March Madness tournament unlike any other we’ve experienced.”

The 67 games of the tournament are still all expected to be aired on television, including WHIO-TV channel 7.