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More universities grapple with COVID-19 restrictions for fall sports

NC StateMore universities and conferences are dealing with COVID-19 restrictions for winter sports, with further reductions on fan attendance announced and schools seeking to switch games to smaller venues.

North Carolina State University, for instance, is seeking to switch games from PNC Arena to venerable Reynolds Coliseum–a smaller on-campus venue–and reducing rent for the games played at PNC Arena from $58,000 per game to $13,925 — the amount NC State estimates it costs PNC Arena to staff an event. The simple reason for the reduction: with no fans in the stands (at least at the beginning of the season), NC State won’t generate gameday revenue. From the News-Observer:

The NCSU request, which was unanimously approved Wednesday by the authority finance committee, noted that the university pays $58,000 per home game in accordance with the arena use agreement — a figure, NCSU said, “appears extreme and unreasonable in light of the strict capacity restriction currently in place.”

NCSU asked that the rent be lowered to $13,925 per a game, which it said was an estimate of PNC Arena’s game-day expenses under the capacity restriction. The letter said that if Gov. Roy Cooper adjusted the restriction during the coming months, the parties would discuss an “equitable payment under those changed circumstances.”

“The inability to host fans in PNC Arena will profoundly impact the budget of the NC State Athletics Department, and was obviously unforeseeable to either party at the time NC State and the Centennial Authority executed the Use Agreement in 1997,” the letter said.

Meanwhile, schools like Purdue University are announcing no fans in the stands because of COVID-19 restrictions, at least for the beginning of the season. Here’s the statement from Purdue Vice President and Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Mike Bobinski regarding fans at Mackey Arena for the 2020-21 basketball season:

As tipoff approaches for the 2020-’21 basketball season, Purdue Athletics announces that games will be played indefinitely without fans in attendance. This decision is based on the current state of the COVID-19 pandemic in our community and reflects our ongoing commitment to help protect the health and safety of our students, coaches, staff and area residents.  We will continue to work with campus, local and state health officials as the season progresses, and will provide updates regarding fan attendance as information becomes available.

The Purdue announcement comes as the Big Ten finally releases a 2020-2021 men’s basketball schedule. As of now the Big Ten will play a 20-game conference schedule per usual, though in a longer length of time. To allow for maximum flexibility in the potential rescheduling of games, this year’s schedule is built with two sets of collapsible byes during the weeks of Jan. 18-21 and Jan. 25-28, and the weeks of Feb. 22-25 and March 1-5. The Big Ten Men’s Basketball Tournament will be played March 10-14 at the United Center in Chicago. Interestingly, it doesn’t appear the schedule was designed to minimize travel: the University of Wisconsin will play two games (home and away) against Penn State, but only one game against the University of Minnesota.

RELATED STORIES: NCAA shifts March Madness 2021 games to Indianapolis; College programs adjusting to COVID-19 realities: no fans in the stands; Ivy League cancels winter sports

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