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Swartz Gym shuts its doors to spectators
COLLEGE SPORTS

Swartz Gym shuts its doors to spectators

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FERRUM—In accordance with the NCAA Division III Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC) , Ferrum College is prohibiting spectators to attend sports events staged at William P. Swartz Gymnasium during the spring semester.

The ODAC’s Presidents’ Council endorsed the conference’s policy Monday, according to a statement issued from the league’s office in Forest.

The policy is in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and at Ferrum, it affects the sports of men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s wrestling, men’s and women’s swimming and volleyball, all of which compete in Swartz Gym.

The ODAC sponsors each of these sports except for men’s and women’s wrestling.

Ferrum Director of Athletics John Sutyak said in a statement that other than players and coaches, “attendance will be limited to team personnel and event management staff at this time. Unfortunately, this means no spectators will be allowed on campus for any indoor events.’’

The policy goes into effect Thursday when Ferrum’s men’s basketball team plays its home opener against William Peace (N.C.) University at 5 p.m.. A women’s wrestling dual versus Liberty University is set for Friday at 7 p.m.

Women’s basketball plays its first home game on Tuesday, Jan. 26 against conference foe Eastern Mennonite University.

The men’s and women’s swimming teams do not stage their first home competitions until Saturday, Feb. 6 and Saturday, Feb. 13. The pool is on the bottom floor of Swartz Gymnasium.

The men’s wrestling team faces first-year foe Emory & Henry College on Wednesday, Jan. 20 at 7 p.m.

Volleyball opens its season on Thursday, March 18 at 7 p.m. against Eastern Mennonite.

“This decision has been made in accordance with the Commonwealth of Virginia’s limit on social gatherings, as well as the ODAC’s stance on spectators for indoor events,’’ Sutyak said.

“We (Ferrum) will continue to monitor federal, state, NCAA and ODAC guidelines in working to make the most prudent decision in regards to fans at indoor events as the season progresses.’’

“Decision-making throughout the COVID-19 pandemic has focused on the health of the individuals within the ODAC’s athletic arenas and a safe return to competition,’’ league officials said.

“Enacting this policy will allow campus administrators to control athletic environments as we (the conference) collectively work towards a return to play.

“ODAC leadership will continue to monitor the landscape surrounding the pandemic. Should any changes be made to the spectator policy, updates will be conveyed through (the) conference office and member institution’s communication channels,’’ league officials said.

Outdoor events, which are staged at W.B. Adams Stadium, W.B. Adams Field, the Burrows-Skeens Tennis Complex, Penn-Roediger Field and American National Bank Field, begin Saturday, Feb. 13 when the Panthers men’s lacrosse team entertains Methodist (N.C.) University.

A decision on whether spectators will be able to attend football, field hockey, men’s and women’s lacrosse, men’s and women’s soccer, baseball, softball and men’s and women’s tennis games and matches has yet to be determined, but that decision will be made before Feb. 13, Sutyak said.

Football, field hockey, volleyball and men’s and women’s soccer are traditionally played in the fall, but because of the pandemic, Ferrum’s fall sports campaign was postponed and pushed back to the spring semester.

The pandemic has forced all sports campaigns to be abbreviated ones.

Ferrum plans to live stream all its home events (https://portal.stretchinternet.com/ferrum/ is the live stream home page) so fans can support the Panthers, Sutyak said.

“These decisions are never easy, but are made in an effort to keep everyone in the Ferrum College community and the surrounding communities in Franklin County safe,’’ Sutyak said.

“I am eager to put this pandemic behind us, and welcoming back athletic events is a step in that direction. I look forward to when we all will be able to enjoy Ferrum athletics, in person, together.’’

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