Melanie Heller

As COVID-19 cases continue to rise across the country, Yale Athletics updated fan attendance policies on Jan. 12th to go into effect from Jan. 17 through Feb. 21. 

Yale Athletics released changes to their fan policy on Jan. 4 and updated guidelines further last week to flesh out restrictions regarding vaccination status, community attendance and capacity limits. These revisions impact all home games. From the start of the new year until Jan. 17, games were played without any fans in attendance and until in-person instruction resumes on Feb. 7th, undergraduate students will not be able to attend matches. 

“It’s a situation we just have to get through and deal with,” Yale men’s basketball forward Isaiah Kelly ’23 said after the Bulldogs’ 96–69 triumph over Cornell. “Hopefully we can get the fans back soon because everybody loves having them there, especially the home games.”

Under the new guidelines, all fully-vaccinated members of the Yale community, except undergraduate students, are allowed to attend games with a 50 percent capacity limit on fan attendance. Photo ID and proof of full vaccination — including a booster, if eligible — are required for entry to games at both indoor and outdoor venues. Unlike the Fall 2021 semester, when masking was not required at outdoor sports, masking is now mandatory for all guests regardless of vaccination status. Concessions will not be sold at any games and children aged 11 or under are not permitted within any venues.

Indoor sports impacted by this change include basketball, hockey, squash, tennis, track and field, gymnastics and swimming and diving. Lacrosse, an outdoor spring sport, will fall under the same rules. While visitors from outside the Yale community are forbidden to enter indoor venues such as Ingalls Rink or the Cullman-Heyman Tennis Center, the rule is not listed for Reese Stadium. 

“It is definitely upsetting that we won’t be able to have fans at our matches, especially since most of [the] big Ivy matches fall under this policy,” women’s squash player Yuliia Zhukovets ’23 said. “Especially after more than a year without any sports, not being [able] to have our parents or at least friends is not the best. But we are definitely going into every match with our best attitude and support for each other.”

Women’s squash joined a host of teams forced to postpone or cancel games due to COVID-19 concerns when Stanford’s squad decided against the cross-country trip for a bout with the Bulldogs. Men’s ice hockey postponed games at Princeton and Quinnipiac originally scheduled for the weekend of Jan. 7-8. The Bulldogs now will face the Tigers Feb. 8 and the Bobcats Feb. 22. Women’s ice hockey pushed back games against Sacred Heart, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Union to Jan. 18, Jan. 25 and Feb. 8, respectively. Yale women’s basketball against Dartmouth has been postponed to Jan. 23, while the men’s basketball team had to delay their Ivy opener until their Jan. 15 victory over Cornell. The postponed games against Columbia, Harvard and Dartmouth are now scheduled for Jan. 25, Feb. 9 and Feb. 22, respectively. Men’s and women’s fencing were unable to participate in the Penn State Dual Series on Jan. 16 due to complications on the Yale teams.

Some fans expressed discontent with the new rules, including the difference between attendance policies for Yale faculty, staff, and graduate students and those for undergraduates. Undergraduates have been permitted to move on campus since Jan. 14, but are currently under a campus-wide quarantine. Zeren Toksoy ’24 has attended Yale ice hockey games since high school and plans to move in on Jan. 21, over two weeks before undergraduate students are allowed in venues.

“It’s probably a good idea to have these guidelines since cases are really bad right now,” Toksoy said. “I’m surprised that they’re letting faculty and grad students. For undergrads, it makes sense, but I don’t think graduate students should be allowed to go.”

According to Yale’s COVID-19 dashboard data on the week of Jan. 10 through Jan. 16, 98 graduate students tested positive while 70 undergraduates tested positive for COVID-19. Many Yale graduate schools, including the School of Public Health, the School of the Environment and the School of Architecture, plan to return to in-person instruction on the same date as Yale College. 

Associate Athletic Director Mike Gambardella did not respond to requests for comment by the time of publication.

Women’s basketball’s 69–67 victory over Brown on Monday was the first game of the year with community attendance.

William McCormack contributed reporting.

Hamera Shabbir covers golf and fencing for the Sports desk and the School of the Environment for the Science and Technology desk. Originally from California's Central Valley, she is a sophomore in Branford College majoring in Environmental Studies.