Furman Should Proceed with Caution After Announcement of Phased Approach to Fans Attending Basketball Games

It is reasonable for fans to want to attend sporting events this spring, but it could put completing the season at risk.

Furman announces it plans for fans to return to Timmons Arena for Paladin basketball this spring. Furman Athletics

If anything has been made clear in the last eight months, it is that the world has been significantly altered as a result of COVID-19. There have been two modes of thought when discussing how people should maneuver and live in a global pandemic. The first? Lockdowns: shut everything down and leave open only the essentials. The second? Learn to live with COVID-19 and move on with life, safely of course. It seems clear to me that the U.S. has chosen the latter position on handling life in a pandemic: people are travelling, many schools are open, and sports are being played.  

In that spirit, it is important for Furman to determine how to carry on in a COVID-19-stricken world, especially with respect to sports. With proper testing and health protocols, sporting events can be done safely and athletes can be protected. Keeping fans safe, however, is much more difficult and requires many more resources.

Allowing fans to attend events is reckless. On Nov. 7, for example, when Notre Dame upset No. 1 ranked Clemson in football, hundreds of students rushed the field without social distancing, and many students pulled down their face-coverings.  

So, if the main goal for college athletic departments is to allow players to complete a full season with minimal exposure to COVID-19, not allowing fans to attend games makes perfect sense.  

Furman just announced its policy toward having fans attend games. On Nov. 10 the school released a statement saying: “Furman athletics will follow a phased approach with regards to ticketing and attendance… Furman's policy is based on state guidelines, which currently allow limited attendance for large events. This includes everyone in attendance — student-athletes, coaches, game day staff, media, families, students, university employees, alumni and fans.”

Furman’s phased plan is broken up into five stages.  

The first: “maximum capacity of 50 attendees, which includes both teams and staff.”  

Phase two: “Furman will allow family members and guests of student-athletes, coaches and staff from both teams to attend games in Timmons Arena with a maximum capacity of 250 attendees.”

Phase three: “Furman will allow for limited attendance in Timmons Arena during the winter break (while students are away from campus) with a maximum of 850 attendees (17 percent seat capacity).”

Phase four and five are similar: “Furman will integrate Furman students, faculty and staff for limited attendance in games at Timmons Arena following the start of the spring semester.” 17 percent seating capacity guideline will still be observed, and fans, including students, will still have the opportunity to attend games at Bon Secours Wellness Arena.

Furman, on the surface, is doing the right thing with capacity guidelines and health guidelines. However, their decision to allow fans, outside of family and necessary personnel, could be dangerous. Trust me, I want Furman fans to be able to attend games and enjoy what is shaping up to be an exciting season, but the reality is that it greatly increases the chances that sports must be cancelled or put-on hold. If we can safely have fans and truly limit capacity, then sign me up, but as we have consistently seen, people’s desires to be involved will overtake the guidelines with reduced capacities. In sum, I would rather see no or limited fan attendance and a complete season than the other way around.

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