KU will not allow any fans at athletic events for the rest of November
photo by: Associated Press
Story updated at 8:53 p.m. Tuesday:
The University of Kansas’ chancellor announced Tuesday that no fans will be allowed at home sporting events for the rest of November because of the ongoing surge of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in the region.
This news will affect two volleyball matches, two football games and two women’s basketball games this month. The first home men’s basketball game will not occur until December. Chancellor Douglas Girod said the Pandemic Medical Advisory Team, which aided in the decision to cancel attendance for the November sporting events, has not yet discussed what will happen at December home games.
Girod said he would be consulting the group regarding December events this week and would “communicate updates with you as appropriate.”
“We know this is disappointing to those of you who planned to be on campus to root for the Jayhawks,” Girod said in the announcement. “While we are not aware of any incidents of COVID-19 transmission at any home athletics competitions this year, the recent spike in cases and hospitalizations makes it unwise to host fans at this time.”
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When the university wants to bring back fans, however, it likely won’t face opposition from the county health department.
On Thursday, the health department decreased the county’s mass gathering limit from 45 to 15 because of increasing cases of COVID-19 in the community. While it might seem like the order would stop KU from allowing fans at athletic events, George Diepenbrock, a spokesman for the health department, said that was not necessarily the case.
Diepenbrock said KU could host fans if the university ensured that they were wearing masks and practicing social distancing.
“The health order defines a mass gathering as instances in which individuals are in one location and are unable to maintain a 6-foot distance between individuals (not including individuals who reside together) with only infrequent or incidental moments of closer proximity,” Diepenbrock said in an email.
KU allowed approximately 10,000 fans — a little more than 21% of the stadium’s capacity of 47,233 — to attend home football games in October. The athletic department capped attendance at 400 for soccer matches and 250 for home volleyball matches.
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In an email the athletic department sent to fans following Girod’s announcement, Athletic Director Jeff Long said returning to a no-fans policy was intended to help “flatten the curve and drastically reduce the positive rates we are currently experiencing.”
“Although we have been able to host large crowds safely so far this season at multiple sporting venues — thanks in large part to the commitment of our fans to wearing masks and remaining socially distanced — we must do what is best for our community as the infection rate spikes once again,” Long said in the email.
Long also urged fans to follow CDC and local health recommendations so KU could have “a small crowd” inside Allen Fieldhouse for men’s basketball games as planned. In October, Long said in an email to season ticket holders that the university expected capacity for games at Allen Fieldhouse to be around 1,500 fans, just under 10% of the venue’s 16,300-seat capacity.
“As we’ve learned from the onset of this pandemic, everything remains a fluid situation that can quickly change week to week,” Long said in Tuesday’s email.
The email also said fans who already purchased tickets to home games in November could get a refund for their tickets or a credit for future ticket purchases, or they could transfer the ticket balance to KU’s Williams Education Fund.
On Tuesday evening, KU women’s basketball coach Brandon Schneider said in a statement emailed to the Journal-World that he thought the university made the right decision.
“We’re obviously disappointed that our fans will not be able to support us in person as we open the season,” Schneider said. “However, we strongly support the leadership of our university and department as they’ve had some very difficult decisions to make throughout the pandemic.”
Here are the KU home games in November where fans won’t be allowed.
• Football: Saturday vs. Texas; Nov. 28 vs. TCU.
• Volleyball: Thursday and Friday vs. Texas Tech.
• Women’s basketball: Nov. 25 vs. Northern Colorado; Nov. 29 vs. Texas A&M Corpus Christi.