ST. GEORGE — Southern Utah University announced a pause on allowing fans at home sporting events in a release issued Wednesday. The only teams currently in season are women’s and men’s basketball.
The news comes on the heels of both programs paused activities, the men first on Dec. 29 and then the women on Dec. 30 due to COVID-19 positive tests in both programs. Both teams are scheduled to resume play this week. SUU will continue allowing recipients of player guest passes but decided to no longer allow fans in the limited capacity it was before, in reaction to the rising case numbers of COVID-19 following the holidays.
“We are obviously anxious to get fans back in the stands for home games, but this is the right decision at this time,” SUU Director of Athletics Debbie Corum said in a written statement. “All decisions we make are made with the best interest of our student-athletes, coaches, staff and the entire campus community at heart.”
The Thunderbirds started the season with no fans to prepare for the logistics of organizing a game under COVID-19 protocols but began allowing them slowly. The fan attendance was increased to a 750 person cap, which they reached when they hosted the Dixie State men’s team on Dec. 17 in the two’s first matchup as Division I peers.
The new policies comply with a request from the office of Gov. Spencer Cox, who was inaugurated last week in Ivins. As cases of the disease caused by the novel coronavirus increase following holiday travel, Cox asked Utah’s schools to limit student interaction until testing can be completed.
“It was requested that we limit the amount of in-person student events to start the semester, allowing them time to be tested once returning to campus,” SUU Assistant Athletic Director for Communication/Marketing Bryson Lester told St. George News.
As for Dixie State University, director of media relations Steve Johnson told St. George News they were not aware of any such request but would comply if it plays any home games while it is pertinent. DSU suspended its season for women’s basketball and lost its men’s home Western Athletic Conference opener due to a positive test in the opponent’s program. The school has allowed a limited number of fans to attend every home game this season.
SUU canceled six scheduled games on the women’s schedule this season already due to COVID-19 issues, both in its own program and in those of opponents. The men’s team has canceled three.
The Utah Department of Health reported 3,729 new cases of COVID-19 in the state on Wednesday and 18 new deaths.
Thunderbird players are still able to give up to four passes to family members to attend, following NCAA guidelines. The men host the University of Idaho Vandals on Thursday and Saturday, while the women travel to Moscow, Idaho to play the Vandals on the road on Friday and Saturday.
Fans unable to attend games can stream them online on the Big Sky Conference’s website.
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