VCU Exits March Madness Tournament Caused by COVID-19 Protocol
By Madyson Fitzgerald
Virginia Commonwealth University’s men’s basketball team was removed from the NCAA March Madness tournament over the weekend as a result of COVID-19 protocol.
After a successful regular season that ended with 19 wins and seven losses, the Rams headed to the Atlantic 10 tournament in early March. Despite winning its first two games, the team fell to St. Bonaventure with a score of 65-74.
VCU ranked 37th in the NCAA March Madness Tournament based on their overall record, with its first game scheduled against the Oregon Ducks on March 20. However, hours before tip-off, VCU announced that it would not participate in the tournament as a result of positive COVID-19 tests from the team.
The NCAA Men’s Basketball Committee declared the game a no-contest, leaving room for the Ducks to advance to the next round. “This decision was made in consultation with the Marion County Public Health Department,” read the statement. “As a result, Oregon will advance to the next round of the tournament.
The NCAA and the committee regret that VCU’s student-athletes and coaching staff will not be able to play in a tournament in which they earned the right to participate. Because of privacy issues we cannot provide further details.”
“With the utmost disappointment, our men’s basketball program will head home from the NCAA Tournament,” said Ed McLaughlin, vice president and director of athletics at VCU, in a statement. “We are heartbroken for our student-athletes, coaches, campus community and fans. The members of our program did an excellent job following COVID-19 protocols all year so ending our season in this manner hurts even more.”
The Rams are the very first team to be pulled out of the March Madness tournament from complications with COVID-19. Before their departure, 28 games had been completed with no snags.
Mike Rhoades, named the 12th head coach in VCU’s men’s basketball history in 2017, was in his fourth season with the team, producing a 305-164 record and a winning percentage of .650. The devastating news, he said, was the result of multiple positive COVID-19 tests.
“We’ve been tested every day for the past three weeks, but within the past 48 hours we’ve received multiple positive tests,” Rhoades said in a statement from VCU. “We are devastated for our players and coaches. It has been a dream for all of us to play in the NCAA Tournament.
We appreciate the care of our doctors and administration this year, and all our efforts and attention will be put into our players at this time. Life isn’t always fair, but it’s about how you deal with it and move forward.”
Following the decision, Atlantic 10 Commissioner Bernadette V. McGlade made a statement about the ordeal. “This is tremendously disappointing and heartbreaking for the student-athletes who’ve worked so hard for this opportunity,” McGlade said. “During this pandemic, the medical advisory boards have the authority to make this decision for the safety and welfare of all of the student-athletes, staff and teams. VCU has had an outstanding year, and this setback does not diminish any of their accomplishments.”
With a clear path paved for the 7-seed University of Oregon Ducks, they faced the 2-seed Iowa Hawkeyes on Monday, March 22 at 9:10 a.m., resulting in an upset. The Ducks defeated the Hawkeyes 95-80, and advanced to the Sweet Sixteen.
On Sunday, March 28, the Ducks fell to the University of Southern California Trojans 68-82, just missing out on their chance in the Elite 8. Despite having a path carved out for them, Oregon head coach Dana Altman acknowledged how difficult the VCU no-contest game was.
“During these challenging times, health and safety is the highest priority,” Altman said in a statement from the Ducks last Saturday. “We would like to wish the VCU student-athletes and staff all the best, and congratulate them on an outstanding season. We hate to see a team’s season end this way after all the hard work these student-athletes have put in.
“This isn’t the way we wanted to advance, but we are excited to be moving on, and we will start our preparation for Monday’s game.”
To prioritize the safety of the players, VCU will continue to follow Atlantic 10, VCU and Virginia Department of Health guidelines.