There’s good news and bad news in regard to fan attendance at the 2021 NCAA Tournament.
The good news: Fans will be allowed to watch March Madness in person this year. The bad news: Attendance will be severely reduced because of the COVID-19 pandemic. While that’s certainly not ideal, anything is better than missing the tournament entirely — as was the case in 2020.
What’s more, the fact the entire tournament will take place in the state of Indiana — with games tipping off at the conclusion of the previous game — should make for some of the most exciting TV entertainment in NCAA Tournament history.
With that, here’s everything you need to know about the 2021 NCAA Tournament, including fan attendance policies, COVID-19 protocols, tickets, venues and more:
Are fans allowed at March Madness in 2021?
Yes. The NCAA announced on Feb. 19 it will allow “up to 25 percent capacity with physical distancing,” in conjunction with local and state COVID-19 policies.
The total number of attendees will depend on the venue — six of which will be used throughout the tournament — and include players, coaches, essential staff, family members of participating teams and a reduced number of fans. Aside from the players, all must also wear face coverings and social distance themselves during the game. The organization also said, “cleaning, disinfecting and safety measures will be a priority.”
The entire 67-game tournament will take place in the state of Indiana, with the vast majority taking place in Indianapolis. The NCAA’s decision to play the 2021 NCAA Tournament in one state was made with the intent to reduce the amount of travel and venues, minimizing any potential spread of the coronavirus.
“We continue to use the knowledge we have gained over the season on how to conduct games in a safe environment,” NCAA president Mark Emmert said in a statement. “I want to thank our host universities and conferences, the Indiana State Health Department, and the leaders in the Marion, Monroe and Tippecanoe county health departments as they help make that possible.”
NCAA Tournament 2021 COVID-19 protocols
The NCAA has released strict protocols for teams that make March Madness but has yet to release a similarly comprehensive plan for fans in attendance. As of Monday, Feb. 22, the only known protocols in place for the latter group are that they must wear masks and socially distance themselves from other fans.
This section will be updated as more information becomes available.
NCAA Tournament 2021 venues
March Madness in 2021 will feature six venues, all in the state of Indiana, from the First Four through the Final Four.
That begins with Mackey Arena (West Lafayette, Ind.) and Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall (Bloomington, Ind.). Those two venues are the only ones not to reside in Indianapolis. They will also host first-round games. Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Hinkle Fieldhouse, Indiana Farmers Coliseum and Lucas Oil Stadium will host first- and second-round games; Bankers Life Field House and Hinkle Fieldhouse will host the Sweet 16; Lucas Oil Stadium will host the Elite Eight, Final Four and national championship rounds.
Below is a full rundown on the sites of the NCAA Tournament, including projected fan attendance per venue:
*Indicates venue will host only first-round games
|Round||Site||Approximate fan attendance|
|First Four||Mackey Arena||3,560|
|Rounds 1-2||Mackey Arena*||3,560|
|Bankers Life Fieldhouse||5,000|
|Indiana Farmers Coliseum||1,700|
|Lucas Oil Stadium||17,500|
|Sweet 16||Bankers Life Fieldhouse||5,000|
|Elite Eight||Lucas Oil Stadium||17,500|
|Final Four||Lucas Oil Stadium||17,500|
|Championship||Lucas Oil Stadium||17,500|
How to buy tickets for March Madness
The dates to buy First Four and first-round tickets through the NCAA have already passed. Below are the dates to buy tickets through the organization for each of the ensuing rounds, from Round 2 through the Elite Eight:
Ticket portals open at 10 a.m. ET
- Round 2: Thursday, March 11
- Sweet 16: Tuesday, March 16
- Elite Eight: Tuesday, March 16
2021 Final Four ticket prices
As of Thursday, March 11, the only publicly available Final Four tickets are via Vivid Seats: The cheapest option available $1,477 each for two tickets.
Can NCAA void tickets if fans have COVID-19?
The NCAA’s ticket FAQ page does not specify what happens if a patron shows can’t be admitted to an NCAA Tournament venue due to COVID-19 symptoms. It does specify how fans can trade in their tickets should they be unable to attend; it also details refunding policies should a game be canceled.
From the NCAA:
What is the refund policy for NCAA Championship tickets?
“In the event a championship is canceled, all tickets purchased through the NCAA will be refunded in full within 30 days of cancellation.”
I have tickets for an NCAA championship that I can no longer attend. How can I sell or transfer my tickets?
“For information on the NCAA Ticket Exchange, visit www.ncaa.com/exchange. The official NCAA Ticket Exchange is the only 100% guaranteed, NCAA-approved secondary ticket marketplace that allows fans to buy and sell NCAA Championship tickets with other fans. Ticket holders who are unable to attend a game have a secure place to safely sell their tickets, and the buyer can be assured that the tickets are authentic and 100% guaranteed.”
NCAA Tournament COVID-19 protocols
The NCAA has released COVID-19 protocols for March Madness fans to follow (not including venue, local or state mandates):
- Face coverings: A face covering must be worn at all times.
- Physical distancing: Practice physical distancing and remain 6 feet apart.
- Seating pods: Remain in your seating pod to ensure physical distancing from other groups.
- No interaction: Interactions with student-athletes, coaches, team personnel and officials are prohibited.
- Arrive prepared: Review venue health and safety guidelines prior to arrival.