LAWRENCE — Kansas football may have played its final home game in front of fans this season, while the Jayhawk men’s basketball program’s fate in that regard remains to be determined.
KU on Wednesday announced that its football team’s next matchup, scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Saturday against Texas, will be postponed until Dec. 12 because of the Jayhawks’ inability to meet the Big 12’s minimum position requirements outlined at the beginning of the season. That affected position group is limited due to a combination of injuries and contact tracing, KU said.
That announcement came one day after Tuesday’s news that the university has suspended fan attendance at all athletic events for the remainder of November. Chancellor Douglas Girod cited the "ongoing surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations across the region" in the decision.
The Jayhawk football team is next scheduled to play TCU at 7 p.m. Nov. 28 in Lawrence. KU's decision to prevent fan entry also affects volleyball matches set for Thursday and Friday and women's basketball contests scheduled for Nov. 25 and 29.
"We know this is disappointing to those of you who planned to be on campus to root for the Jayhawks," wrote Girod, who announced the decision in a letter addressed to faculty, staff and students. "While we are not aware of any incidents of COVID-19 transmission at any home athletics competitions this year, the recent spike in cases and hospitalizations makes it unwise to host fans at this time."
Girod said he will consult with the university's Pandemic Medical Advisory Team later this week to discuss the fate of December events, which as of Wednesday now includes what would be a football season finale against the Longhorns. KU men’s basketball, meanwhile, is currently set to play its first game inside Allen Fieldhouse at 7 p.m. Dec. 3 against Washburn, with the program previously announcing a capacity limit of 1,500 fans for home games this season.
Girod labeled this a "critical" moment for the university, state and nation, calling for a renewed commitment to mitigation efforts.
"Throughout the fall semester, Douglas County and KU have had lower positivity rates than most other parts of the state and region, thanks in large part to the commitment of our community to curb the spread of the virus. This is something we can be proud of," Girod wrote. "But the spread of the disease in neighboring regions is catching up to us. Kansas and adjacent states are at a tipping point, with the number of new COVID-19 cases increasing each day, and hospitals at or near capacity. The next few weeks will be crucial to our region’s ability to weather this latest wave, particularly as many of us consider whether to gather for the holidays."
KU football played its Sept. 12 opener, a 38-23 defeat to Coastal Carolina, with no fans in the stands, but the program allowed up to 10,000 individuals inside David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium for games held Oct. 3 and 31.
Athletic director Jeff Long wrote that the pandemic has created a fluid situation for collegiate sports that can cause the landscape to change in an instant.
"Although we have been able to host large crowds safely so far this season at multiple sporting venues — thanks in large part to the commitment of our fans to wearing masks and remaining socially distanced — we must do what is best for our community as the infection rate spikes once again," Long wrote. "The hope is that this will allow our community to flatten the curve and drastically reduce the positive rates we are currently experiencing."