What to expect at the Yuengling Center

The Yuengling Center holds just over 10,000, but it won’t be anywhere near full for the 2020-21 men’s and women’s basketball seasons. There will be no fans in attendance through the nonconference schedules but the university will reassess the attendance policy once conference play starts. ORACLE PHOTO/BRIAN HATTAB

The Yuengling Center, at many points during both basketball seasons, was electric last year, especially when the Bulls were pulling off last-ditch effort wins or piling on points.

This year will be much different, at least through the first three men’s home games and the first four women’s games where the attendance will be zero. 

It was announced late Friday afternoon that both teams will not have fans through the nonconference schedules due to concerns over COVID-19. There are plans in the works to welcome fans by the start of conference play, however, nothing is set in stone yet.

If fans are allowed, the soonest they’ll be in the Yuengling Center is Dec. 19 when the women’s team plays Houston. For the men’s team, it’ll be Dec. 22 when the Bulls take on Wichita State.

As for now, capacity is limited to approximately a couple hundred seats for family members of players and coaches. Families of opponents are also welcomed via a pass list.

In an email to The Oracle, USF Athletics said it will provide details on fan attendance limits as the time gets closer. Social distancing requirements and COVID-19 protocols will also be revealed as conference play nears.

The Yuengling Center holds just over 10,000 spectators and based on attendance caps across the league, one can speculate how many fans could eventually be allowed at USF home games.

UCF plans to allow 25% capacity — about 2,500 fans — at Addition Financial Arena when its season tips off against Oklahoma on Saturday. Face masks will be required at all times unless eating and drinking. Knights Athletics said more information on student attendance and further arena protocols will be released this week.

Cincinnati Athletics is hopeful for a “limited” fan presence at Fifth Third Arena but will start its season without spectators.

“We will start the season without fans in Fifth Third Arena,” Director of Athletics John Cunningham told The Enquirer. “We will permit fans in the arena later in the season only if we determine it is safe and appropriate to do so. We are not holding to a time frame on such a determination.”

FedExForum, home of the Memphis Grizzlies and Memphis Tigers, released COVID-19 protocols ahead of the start of the basketball seasons. Face masks will be required at all times and fans will only be allowed to eat and drink while seated or in designated areas and not walking around the arena.

Ticketed seats have been placed 6 feet apart, and fans will be required to stand at least 6 feet apart when walking or in lines. Refills on sodas and popcorn will not be allowed. Arena officials estimate there will be a 20% capacity limit.

By that estimate, there could be somewhere between 2,000 and 2,500 fans allowed at the Yuengling Center. 

Of course, that’s dependent on case numbers in the area and if the university approves having fans in the arena.

Regardless, some USF fans are planning on attending if and when allowed but have mixed feelings about the capacity indoors.

“I personally love the basketball games so I would absolutely go,” Brianna Leigh, a senior studying behavioral healthcare, told The Oracle on Facebook. “If we had to wear masks and/or social distance seating, I would do just that.”

Senior industrial engineering student Veronica Diaz said she’d go to games if there was a reasonable capacity.

“I will absolutely be there when they open up as long as there is a realistic attendee capacity,” she said. “I have concerns about the closed space and social distancing while seated.”

Both basketball teams are set to embark on seasons full of unknowns while also being tabbed for greatness. 

The women’s team is set to take the conference by storm after being selected to win it all in the preseason, and the men’s team is tabbed to be a formidable contender after being selected fifth in the AAC preseason poll.

If things go according to plan, fans will get to witness what could be pivotal seasons for both USF teams.