• Indiana

IHSAA limits spectators for boys basketball tournament, prohibits spectators for gymnastics finals

By: MATTHEW B. MOWERY, March 12, 2020, 12:07 pm

The Indiana High School Athletic Association announced Thursday that it would conclude the boys basketball tournament with limited spectators, while no spectators will be allowed for the state gymnastics finals at Ball State. 

“The Indiana High School Athletic Association continues to monitor the impact of COVID-19 around our state. Our primary focus has been, and will continue to be the health and safety of our students and supporters attending our events,” commissioner Bobby Cox said. “Given the recent and ongoing spread of the coronavirus and study of the available information surrounding this pandemic, the IHSAA will conclude the boys basketball tournament series of events as scheduled, with only essential staff and immediate family in attendance.”

Cox, who is headed toward retirement later this year, made the announcement in a news conference at noon, noting that the IHSAA had modified or canceled postseason play before for a coal/energy crisis, as well as for weather, but never for a potential health pandemic like this one.

“Somebody, jokingly, said ‘Can you make it to Aug. 1st?’ I said ‘I’m not sure I can make it to 5 o’clock,’” Cox said. 

Cox noted that the allowable spectators for basketball games includes: parents, grandparents and siblings of players, student staffers.

“There shall be no charge for the 75 admissions granted to each school,” Cox said, noting that the semi-state tournaments will follow the same format, provided nothing changes between then and now.


RELATED: Michigan High School Athletic Association limits spectators for conclusion of winter sports tournaments. UPDATED: MHSAA puts postseason on ‘pause,’ postponing indefinitely.


“Well, we’ve been monitoring this situation for quite some time, even before the sectional began. We’ve been in constant contact with various health groups and individuals to determine what was the best course of action. Throughout the last 48 hours, things have changed. Things in our community have changed, things around the state have changed — things around the country have changed. So we’re trying to stay up with that. We still want to provide our young people with the opportunity to participate in the state finals, in a tournament series event, but we do have to restrict it. It’s an ongoing process, but that’s where we’re at today,” Cox said, when asked to walk through the timeline for the decision.

“The last time I checked, 15 of our 16 sites have no confirmed cases in those counties. I feel pretty comfortable about the regionals. Now, this may change moving forward. But that’s where we’re at today, and we’re going to contest the regional under these conditions, and the state championships at Ball State for gymnastics.”

Cox said the IHSAA would make every effort to stream/broadcast every boys basketball game prior to the finals — with the championship games broadcast by Fox Sports Indiana —  and the gymnastics finals will be streamed on

Those who purchased advance tickets from the host sites may return the tickets to point of purchase for refunds, Cox said. The tickets purchased for both the basketball and gymnastics finals will be refunded by the IHSAA. 

The ISHAA will conduct a 2 p.m. teleconference with the participating schools and hosts sites to run through the details surrounding the regional tournaments.

The difference in restrictions between basketball and gymnastics has to do with the size of the event itself, Cox said.

“What we’re trying to do is achieve (staying under) that number of 250 people of a ‘large gathering’ that’s been established by the CDC,” the commissioner explained. “When you count up all the participants, all the judges, all the spotters, all the scorers, everybody that’s going to be in that arena, we’re already at 250 before we let the first person in, so we have banned spectators from the state gymnastics tournament.”

The principals and athletic directors of the participating schools are responsible for screening who is eligible to be a spectator for the basketball tournament games. 

“There shall be no charge for the 75 admissions granted to each school,” Cox said. “We can’t expect our host sites to know these 75 individuals that are going to come to the (game). Our principals and athletic directors will know their folks. And so we’re going to ask our  principals, athletic directors — their designees, school administrators — to be at the event, and we’re going to ask them to make sure that the people coming through, the 75 that we’re going to give passes to, make sure that they’re legitimate folks. It’s going to be extremely disappointing to a lot of our patrons and fans not to be able to go to the state championships, but we do need to protect everybody who’s there. And, I hate to say this, but there will be people who do try to sneak in. So we’re going to lean on our principals and athletic directors to help us out with this.”

Other recommendations:

• The host sites are encouraged to have separate entrances for each group of participants and eligible spectators.

• Host sites should only have ‘essential’ personnel on hand to work the contest.

• Social separation encouraged for the fans throughout the gymnasium.

• No pregame or postgame handshakes between teams or officials.

• No pep bands, dance teams or cheerleaders.

Cox noted that, while grandparents are on the list as acceptable spectators, people should still be cognizant if they fall under the category of at-risk individuals.

“If you’re one of those people at high risk, you should refrain from coming. We’ve got some very healthy grandparents and if they feel like coming, that would be great. If they fall within the limit of the 75 for the school, that’s wonderful,” he said. “But I think everybody just needs to take a little cursor of themselves — not only elderly, but anybody who’s been under the weather, and doesn’t feel well, they probably just need to stay home.”

The decision will have an impact, both on the association, and on the games themselves.

“Not good. I wish I could tell you it was not a big (economic) impact. I look back on our financial reporting from the last three years, and I suspect this will cost the association a half a million dollars,” Cox said.

And it will just be downright weird for teams, playing in front of mostly empty gymnasiums.

“Kids like to play in front of people, and I think it’ll impact the game. It’ll feel like a scrimmage. You’re going to have three officials out there, and two teams sitting on the bench, but there aren’t going to be too many people in the gym. I think it’ll affect play — I don’t think there’s any doubt it’ll affect play — but at least they’re getting to play, right?” Cox said, noting that the subject of canceling the tournament was discussed, but tabled.

“We discussed that as a staff, and we decided that was not the direction we wanted to go. … Yes, there could very well be (a tipping point). If we receive other information from the department of health, or other organizations, we may make a determination we need to do something different.”

Cox added that there are no immediate impacts for upcoming spring sports, but that the IHSAA will not waive its 10-practice rule, should individual schools make the decision to have extended spring breaks.

“Those questions have already been asked by many of our member schools. The regular-season contests are totally up to the member schools, whether they want to contest those or not,” Cox said. “I’m hopeful that the virus will subside — I’m not real confident that that’ll happen, but I’m hopeful it will.”