The Basketball Tournament, a winner-take-all affair for a seven-figure sum to be held next month, will become the first live televised basketball competition in America since the coronavirus pandemic sidelined sporting events around the world in March.
Featuring former college stars and overseas standouts, the TBT will be held at Nationwide Arena, home of the Columbus Blue Jackets, for a 24-team tournament in Columbus, Ohio, from July 4-14, event officials announced on Thursday.
Now in its seventh year, the TBT prize will be $1 million — it was $2 million last year — and the event will air on ESPN, which recently agreed to a three-year extension to televise the TBT, and its family of networks. Carmen’s Crew, a group of former Ohio State players, will seek to defend its 2019 title after defeating the Golden Eagles Alumni, a group of former Marquette standouts, in the championship game.
The last time basketball aired live on American TV, the Big East tournament’s opening round had started before the event was canceled.
“Being the first basketball event to play in the U.S. since March is a monumental task that is only possible with great partners,” TBT founder and CEO Jon Mugar said in a release. “We can’t thank the State of Ohio, Columbus Sports Commission or The Ohio State University enough for their support, not to mention our longstanding partners ESPN, Puma and Zelle. Everyone is unified in wanting to see basketball on TV again, and our players can’t wait to compete.”
In May, the TBT announced that it had created a comprehensive health and safety plan, anchored by extensive COVID-19 testing, and shopped the plan to potential hosts around the country.
Mugar told ESPN last month that the plan is to have no more than 50 people in the gym at one time, although more than 400 people will participate in the “quarantined” event. Players must self-quarantine and get tested before their arrival. They’ll be tested on site and then tested again once they enter the event’s quarantined facilities. If a player tests positive at any point, his entire team will be removed from the competition, according to event officials.
Teams will not interact before games, and each team will bring all of its belongings from the hotel to the gym for each competition because once a team loses, it will immediately leave the arena and go home.
Ohio opened key venues on Wednesday, including museums and movie theaters, as part of the state’s plan to move forward in the pandemic. According to The New York Times, the number of new cases in the state is decreasing.
The TBT has gained the approval of the state’s top officials.
“Hosting TBT in Columbus is another step forward in our state’s efforts to responsibly restart Ohio,” Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said in the TBT’s release. “We’re looking forward to having live sports back in a safe way we all can enjoy.”