• 72°

COVID-19 putting college crazies into quarantine for start of basketball season

By Dave Skretta

AP Basketball Writer

There is a tradition at Taylor University, a small NAIA school in Indiana, where the entire crowd sits in complete silence until the men’s basketball team scores its 10th point of the game and sets off a wild celebration.

Thanks to the scourge of COVID-19, there will be no Silent Night game this year. Only silence.

The game has been played on the Friday before finals week for decades, but the pandemic forced the university to call it off this year. The standing room-only crowd, including hundreds of students dressed in their pajamas, will stay at home, unable to sing the old Christmas standard of the same name at the end of the game.

As the college basketball season begins this week, there is a disheartening absence of tradition. The population of Krzyzewskiville at Duke will be zero, the Oakland Zoo at Pittsburgh a little more tame. The Orange Crush at Illinois will be less intimidating and the ghost-like sound of “Rock Chalk Jayhawk” at Kansas will be merely echoes from thousands of previous wins.

“Without doubt, this is a difficult announcement for us to deliver to our Taylor community,” interim president Paige Comstock Cunningham said in announcing the cancellation of Silent Night, “but the health of each student, faculty and staff member, as well as that of our families, must be our primary objective.”

Indeed, very little has been normal since sports returned from a long shutdown with the NBA and NHL playoffs held in largely fanless bubbles and Major League Baseball played before oceans of empty seats. The NFL season brought small numbers of fans, as did the return of college football in some locations, but the sense of electricity has still been missing.

That will be even more pronounced for college hoops, where fans packed into arenas ranging from the tiny (G.B. Hodge Center at South Carolina-Upstate, capacity 878) to the massive (Carrier Dome at Syracuse, capacity 35,446) are close enough to the action that they can see and smell the sweat dripping from the players.

Fans in such close proximity create massive homecourt advantages at places such as Allen Fieldhouse (Kansas) and turn venues such as Cameron Indoor Stadium (Duke)  into nightmares for opposing teams.

“I’m starting my 41st year here, so I’ve benefited greatly from having that sixth man to create one of the best environments in sport, not just in basketball,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “We’ll see. After we play a couple of games, I’ll let you know how good or how bad it is. I will tell you this, though: I know overall it’s an advantage for us.”

Just about every school has unique traditions that have been quarantined.

Michigan State is only allowing friends and families of players and coaches, meaning the raucous Izzone section will be on hiatus. The handful of people allowed for Indiana games won’t be singing the “William Tell Overture” at the under-8 timeout of the second half with the same gusto. Chants of “I Believe” at Utah State, “O-H-I-O” at Ohio State and “Boomer Sooner” at Oklahoma will feel very different when they are merely audio recordings.

For the first time in 35 years, John Brown University in Arkansas won’t have to deal with the same old technical foul in its home opener — there won’t be a capacity crowd unfurling 2,000 rolls of toilet paper onto the court when the Golden Eagles score their first points.

Fans also are locked out of the Palestra, the old Philadelphia gym that has served as the Big 5 home for 65 years.

“It’s been hard trying to get my arms around this entire situation,” said Temple coach Aaron McKie, whose team has had a number of schedule changes due to positive tests and contact tracing. “But it’s our reality now. It’s what everybody throughout the country is dealing with.”



In lieu of annual festival, New Sarum turns Cheerwine beer release into celebration


RSS says federal money won’t be long-term solution for staff pay

China Grove

Main Street Marketplace combines local ingredients, community with farm-to-table dinner


Business roundup: New managing director takes helm at Piedmont Players Theatre


COVID-19 cases continue decline as week brings 12 new deaths


Letter: Privileged to work where artists are valued

Brincefield Cartoons

Mook’s Place: COVID-19


Library notes: New podcast coming in October


In ‘This is Salisbury,’ Manier paints people who make city a better place to live


Stokes earns best in show at Carolina Artists Guild’s Expo


Livingstone College passes goal for UNCF kickoff


Commissioners to consider tax incentives for developer planning 63,000-square-foot facility in southern Rowan


OctoberTour will return to in-person tours, require proof of vaccination or negative COVID-19 tests


Keepin it poppin’: The Old 97 Kettlecorn Company adapts during pandemic, earns honor

East Spencer

East Spencer mayor says board knew about new administrator’s sexual battery charge before hiring


College football: Catawba holds on for 3-0 start


Salisbury-based Lutheran Services Carolinas expands refugee program


Trailblazing tourist trip to orbit ends with splashdown


One stunning afternoon: Setbacks imperil Biden’s reset


Defense witness gives tearful account of deadly shooting in Fishzilla murder trial

News Main

High school football: Hornets easily handle unbeaten Thomasville; North, Davie also romp


Judges strike down state’s voter ID law


Jury finds Robert Durst guilty of best friend’s murder


Jeffrey MacDonald ends release appeal from infamous 1970 slayings