As the NCAA, its member universities, and the conferences they represent contemplate how to proceed with college athletics amid the threat of coronavirus, USC will continue for the foreseeable future without fans present.
With spring football practice set to open to the public Wednesday afternoon, USC announced on Tuesday night that it will limit home sporting events to only essential personnel until March 29, in an effort to curb the spread of coronavirus. UCLA enacted a similar policy earlier in the day.
In a statement, USC defined essential personnel as participating athletes and their families, coaches, officials, recruits, and credentialed media, as well as other personnel designated by USC athletics. Any fans who already purchased tickets to an affected event are advised to contact the USC ticket office.
While USC barred fans from attending, the Trojans athletic teams will, at this time, continue to travel to road competitions as scheduled. That includes the Pac-12 men’s basketball tournament in Las Vegas, where USC is scheduled to arrive Wednesday for its second-round matchup on Thursday.
The tournament, as of Tuesday night, was scheduled to go on as planned, with fans in attendance.
But as other collegiate sports entities consider how to handle the situation, the possibility of more restrictive measures still exists. The NCAA said in a statement that it “will make decisions in the coming days,” as it pertains to next week’s NCAA tournament.
That could mean empty arenas for the first two rounds of the tournament, which USC is expected to play in for the first time in three seasons. Asked to contemplate the possibility of playing for an empty arena, USC senior guard Jonah Mathews didn’t mince words.
“That would be terrible. Terrible, “ Mathews said. “I’ve never had to play with nobody there really, except in Pullman, Washington, I guess. But there’s some people there, at least. If there’s none, that would kill the whole vibe of the game for sure.
As it considered its options, a day out from the tournament’s start, the Pac-12 announced that it would limit locker rooms to only essential personnel, barring the media from entering. While other conferences considered similar policies, the Ivy League outright canceled its conference tournament on Tuesday.
Three opposing teams set to travel to Los Angeles have already canceled their trips, including North Carolina State women’s tennis, Harvard men’s volleyball, and Stony Brook women’s lacrosse.
Any athletes, coaches, or staff at USC who don’t feel comfortable traveling or participating would also be accommodated, the university said.
“Please know that these measures were taken with an abundance of caution for the health and well-being of our campus community,” USC said in a statement.
All in-person classes at USC had already been moved online for the rest of the week, as the university tests its capability for conducting online classes en masse.