Lily Dorstewitz, Staff Photographer

Students packed the stands against Harvard on Saturday, marking one of the first times undergraduates were allowed to attend home games this semester after fan attendance restrictions were loosened early. 

Originally, undergraduates were barred from attending games until Feb. 7, in line with the resumption of in-person learning. On Friday, an email from Dean of Student Affairs Melanie Boyd announced that students were able to attend athletic events starting Saturday, provided that they have completed their phase-one quarantine. 

“I’m excited to be able to come back to games,” John Klinger ’22 said.

During the 48 hours of early fan attendance, many Yale teams played crucial games at home. The men’s lacrosse team opened up its season with two scrimmages against Hobart and Fairfield on Saturday. Men’s hockey took on Clarkson at the Whale on Saturday night, and the gymnastics team pulled out its first victory of the season against Southern Connecticut State at the John J. Lee Amphitheater on Sunday. 

Perhaps the most anticipated matchup of the weekend was the men’s basketball game against Harvard on Saturday night. 

While Netanel Crispe ’25 and his friends were originally headed to the men’s hockey game, it was the timeless rivalry between the Blue and White and the Crimson that led them to basketball. Crispe conceded that this was his first-ever Yale basketball game and it was an “incredible experience.” 

The Bulldogs donned their blue uniforms, usually reserved for road games, while spectators dressed in a black-out theme. 

“I was trying to figure out what a theme could be, we were wearing blue, Harvard was wearing white, so I thought black out would be perfect. I sent it to my friends, put it on social media, said send it to everybody,” forward EJ Jarvis ’23 said. “I really didn’t know how many students would turn out, but it was great to see everybody come out like they did, just looking at the crowd and seeing it all the way packed to the top… After playing three games with no fans, it’s great to see that many come out to one game.”

John J. Lee Amphitheater holds 2,532 fans with the bleachers unfolded and a whopping 1,104 came out to support the Bulldogs on Saturday. With the current 50 percent capacity protocol, 87 percent of the available seats were accounted for. 

Fan attendance certainly played a role on the court, with constant cheering for the Blue and White and chirps at the Crimson players. With the crowd on their side, the Bulldogs were able to maintain a lead over Harvard for the vast majority of the game and held on for a 58–55 victory. 

“Tonight was special,” head coach James Jones said at the postgame press conference. “What basketball does and what sports do, they galvanize a community, and tonight we were galvanized, we won, and that’s when it’s really special. I think that all of Yale, all the kids here, they felt like they were part of that win, and they were.”

Along with pushing up Yale College attendance at games, policies such as limiting attendance to Yale community members and limiting capacity to 50 percent are now only in place through Feb. 11, when they were originally scheduled to be enforced until Feb. 21. 

Starting Friday, Feb. 11, indoor arenas — such as Ingalls Rink and John J. Lee Amphitheater — will open up to 75 percent capacity and will start welcoming general community members, not just those with Yale affiliations. Vaccinated fans between the ages of five and 11 will be admitted to indoor games for the first time this season. 

At outdoor venues like Bush Field and Reese Stadium, guidelines are the same as they were in the fall. All fans can attend games and those who are unvaccinated must be masked for the duration of the competition. Concession stands will also make their return in time for springtime events. These guidelines are going into effect just in time for the Yale men’s lacrosse team’s first official game against Villanova on Sunday, Feb. 13.

The first home game under the updated fan guidelines will be a women’s hockey match against Clarkson at Ingalls Rink on Friday, Feb. 11 at 6:00 p.m.

William McCormack contributed reporting

Melanie Heller currently serves as the Sports Editor for the Yale Daily News. She previously reported on women's hockey. Originally from Potomac, MD, she is a senior in Silliman College double majoring in Economics and Humanities.