Six of college basketball’s top officials for the NCAA Tournament — including Ted Valentine, John Higgins and Roger Ayers — have been removed from the NCAA Tournament due to one positive COVID-19 test, resulting in contact tracing involving the others.
The NCAA brought 60 officials instead of the normal 100 to Indianapolis to work the NCAA Tournament during March Madness. One of the protocols in place was that the referees were not allowed to leave the hotel once they arrived unless it was to go to the arena.
The referees were told to arrive by Sunday night and check into their hotel, but multiple officials said that the rooms weren’t ready upon their arrival, nor was there any food. Instead of having the officials wait in a secure area, they were allowed to leave for dinner and the group of Valentine, Higgins, Ayers, John Gaffney, Kipp Kissinger and Ray Natili all went to Harry & Izzy’s steakhouse in downtown Indianapolis.
Upon their return to the hotel, they took COVID-19 tests and one of the referees tested positive, sources told Stadium. He then tested twice on Monday morning, and tested positive.
Due to the fact that they ate together and weren’t wearing masks, the Indiana Department of Health deemed them unable to work in the NCAA Tournament.
Higgins has worked eight Final Fours, Valentine has worked six, Ayers has done three and Kissinger has worked one.