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GREENSBORO -- Less than two hours after announcing that his conference's men's basketball tournament would continue, albiet without fans in the stands, ACC commissioner John Swofford reversed course Thursday morning and canceled the remainder of the event.

It's the first time in the 66-year history of the conference that the tournament won't be completed.

The unprecidented move was made over public health concerns associated with the spreading coronavirus crisis and followed the lead of both the NBA and other major conferences that had previously postponed or canceled their seasons or postseason play.

"We're all dealing with a very fluid and unknown enemy with the corona virus," Swofford said to a small group inside Greensboro Coliseum just moments before the scheduled tipoff of a quarterfinal game between regular season conference champion Florida State and Clemson. We don't know entirely what that means for the future.

"We have been in constant deliberations and discussions within the Atlantic Coast Conference with our presidents and our athletics directors for weeks. We've also been in numerous conversations with appropriate health officials through this, trying to make the right decision for our teams, our students, you the fans, to do what's right as we move forward."

Swofford had originally announced Thursday that the games -- including NC State's quarterfinal matchup against Duke -- would be played as scheduled without fans in the stands as a precaution.

But he added a foretelling warning that the situation was fluid and that the remainder of the tournament could still potentially be canceled if further developments deem that necessary.

Those developments, including the cancellations of tournament by the SEC and Big Ten, came shortly afterward.

"The most important aspect of this is the safety of fans, anyone associated with this tournament and the greater population," Swofford said at a press conference prior to the cancelation. "This is something that is much bigger than this tournament. something we haven't faced in our lifetime."

In addition to ending the basketball tournament early, the ACC has suspended all other athletic activities -- including competition, organized practice, recruiting and participation in NCAA champoinships -- until further notice.  

Because the tournament will not be completed, Swofford declared top seeded Florida State the official ACC champion and awarded the Seminoles the trophy in a surreal ceremony at midcourt.

NC State coach Kevin Keatts, asked about the situation before any decisions on the future of the tournament were announced, said that he understood the severity of the situation and would understand if drastic action had to be taken.

"It's a serious problem and it's not an athletic problem," Keatts said. "It's a problem all across the country, and so I don't think anybody here or anybody in the sports world should obviously complain about what the people that know what's going on will decide to do.

"In our situation, we'll play wherever they tell us, but we also want to make sure that our kids and our coaches are all protected and are safe."

Coronaviruses are a family of hundreds of viruses that can cause fever, respiratory problems and in some cases, as gastrointestinal symptoms.

They are spread through human contact, usually thorough droplets of saliva carried in the air for up to six feet when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Viral particles can be breathed in, land on surfaces that people touch or be transferred when shaking hands or sharing a drink with someone who has the virus.

More than 1,200 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, including 37 deaths, have been reported across the U.S. as of Wednesday afternoon. Eight of those cases have been reported in North Carolina.

Among those infected is Utah Jazz all-star Rudy Gobert.

"We’ve relied on appropriate help of advisors, whether it’s state, local the CDC or the advisory panel the NCAA has put together, and their advice has changed with some regularity," Swofford said, calling the cancelation the most challenging decision of his tenure with the ACC. "It’s an extraordinary situation. None of us that are involved in it have ever dealt with anything like it. And hopefully never will again.”