Some parents and athletes of sports programs in the USA South Athletic Conference would like to see changes in the limitations placed on attendance at events this spring.
The conference, which includes Mary Baldwin University, announced in December that it would be holding not only spring sports this semester, but also sports that were postponed in the fall.
In order to do so, though, the conference also announced a policy limiting spectators attending any outdoor sporting event in the conference.
Only students, faculty and staff of the host institution will be allowed, although institutions may adopt stricter policies.
“These decisions are in alignment with CDC, state, local and campus protocols, recommendations and guidelines while also made in consultation with athletic directors, athletic trainers and staffs,” the policy reads. “Limiting spectators to those within the host’s campus community will assist in maintaining the health and safety protocols which are required by those campuses.”
Spectators aren’t allowed at indoor sports, like volleyball.
Mary Baldwin University Director of Athletics Tom Byrnes confirmed that the USA South Athletic Conference policy will apply to all Fighting Squirrels’ home athletic facilities.
However, those signing the petition disagree with this policy. As of early Thursday afternoon just over 4,500 people had signed.
“USA South Athletics has decided that parents will not be allowed to watch outside our students play,” reads the petition, which was started by Elizabeth Ellison on Change.org. “I am asking that they reconsider and allow all parents to have the opportunity to watch their athlete play…but at the very LEAST let the senior parents enjoy their athletes last games.”
Conference Commissioner Tom Hart is aware of the petition. Hart provided a response in an email to The News Leader Thursday morning.
“With 18 institutions, located in six states, the USA South has a variety of factors to consider when developing policies,” he said. “Our top priority during the pandemic has been the health and safety of our student-athletes. With all 18 of our sports conducting some type of season this spring, which cannot be said for a large number of Division III Conferences, we are well aware of the interest parents have in watching their children compete.
“Our campuses are residential in nature with limited administrative resources therefore minimizing attendance was done to a large degree in an effort to reduce the risk to the campus population.”
He did say, however, that, like all things during the pandemic, the situation is fluid.
“Therefore, as conditions change so does the potential for the reconsideration of Conference decisions,” Hart wrote.
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Patrick Hite is The News Leader’s education and sports reporter. Story ideas and tips always welcome. Contact Patrick (he/him/his) at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @Patrick_Hite. Subscribe to us at newsleader.com.