Amherst College to host NCAA Tournament games with no fans allowed due to coronavivrus concerns

  • The Amherst College student section is empty during the first round of the NCAA Division 3 tournament, Friday, Mar. 6, 2020 as Madeline Eck of Amherst College moves the ball against Mary Kate O'Day of Framingham State at LeFrak Gym in Amherst. In the afternoon, it was announced by Donald Faulstick, the director of Amherst athletics, that "given the rapidly evolving nature of the global COVID-19 outbreak" the college had decided to prohibit spectators. STAFF FILE PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Hannah Fox of Amherst College, left, passes against Gwendolyn Carpenter of Framingham State, during the first round of the NCAA Division 3 tournament, Friday, at an empty LeFrak Gym in Amherst. The Mammoths will play to an empty house again this weekend. STAFF FILE PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Kate Sullivan of Amherst College, left, moves the ball against Emily Velozo of Framingham State, during the first round of the NCAA Division 3 tournament, Friday at an empty LeFrak Gym in Amherst. This weekend, LeFrak will again be without fans for the Mammoth’s two tournament games due to coronavirus concerns. STAFF FILE PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Kate Sullivan of Amherst College, center, splits Framingham State defenders Katty Haidul, left, and Flannery O'Connor during the first round of the NCAA Division 3 tournament, Friday, Mar. 6, 2020 at LeFrak Gym in Amherst. STAFF FILE PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

Staff Writer
Published: 3/9/2020 9:08:36 PM
Modified: 3/9/2020 10:54:36 PM

Fans will once again be excluded from NCAA Tournament games at LeFrak Gymnasium because of COVID-19 virus concerns.

Amherst College was selected to host the Sweet 16 and Elite 8 as one of four NCAA Division III women’s basketball tournament pods Friday and Saturday. The school will keep its policy from last weekend in place that barred spectators from attending.

The Mammoths will face George Fox University at 7 p.m. Friday, while Mary Hardin-Baylor and Christopher Newport play in the early game at 4 p.m. The winners will meet Saturday with a spot in the Final Four on the line.

The decision did not sit well with George Fox, which is located in Newberg, Oregon.

“We are excited that our team has earned the right to compete in the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA Tournament. We are beyond disappointed that the NCAA is allowing Amherst College to block the student-athletes’ parents, families, and friends of each of the four teams from watching what could be the final game of their careers,” George Fox athletic director Adam Puckett said. “Parents have made countless sacrifices of their money and time to support their daughters from a young age, and the fact that the NCAA is allowing Amherst to host and ban spectators for a second consecutive week is unacceptable.”

Mary Hardin-Baylor is located in Belton, Texas. Christopher Newport is in Newport News, Virginia. Both schools declined comment.

Amherst College did not respond to requests for comments on Monday.

The Mammoths hosted first- and second-round games last weekend in a largely empty gym, only allowing team and game personnel, and media through the doors. In a statement released on Friday, Amherst said on-site medical personnel were on hand to take the temperature of credentialed attendees.

“Please be aware that we are taking these actions out of an abundance of caution and being mindful of the health of the Amherst community, including the teams that are competing,” director of athletics Donald Faulstick said in the statement. “We genuinely regret any inconvenience to the families and fans of the players.”

Amherst is the only sectional site among the four to prohibit fans. The other host sites are Tufts, Bowdoin and Hope College in Michigan.

Smith College, which reached the Sweet 16 for the first time in program history, will travel to Tufts and face Messiah at 5 p.m. Friday. The games in Medford will be “normal,” Smith director of sports information Ciara Lawrence said Monday.

None of the sectional host sites in the men’s Division III tournament will exclude spectators.

Amherst was the only one of 16 host schools to bar fans last weekend in the women’s tournament. Johns Hopkins University hosted men’s games in an empty gym in the Division III tournament.

Orr Rink, located next door to LeFrak Gymnasium in Amherst, will host a first-round NCAA Division III Tournament women’s hockey game on Wednesday when Norwich plays the Mammoths at 7 p.m. Fans will not be admitted there, either.

The Mammoths also have canceled many of their scheduled sporting events during spring break (March 15-21). The baseball and softball teams typically travel to Florida, while the tennis teams go to California.

“We know these decisions pose significant challenges and wish they were not necessary. Our goal is to keep members of our community as safe as we possibly can while ensuring that students can complete their coursework for the semester and the daily operations of the institution can continue,” Amherst President Biddy Martin said in a statement posted on the school’s website Monday.

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