TROY — RPI fall and winter athletic teams will soon return to action after missing last season because of restrictions related to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
However, many fans who want to attend to watch the teams won’t be able to do so.
In an Aug. 13 email sent to RPI students, faculty and staff and alumni, RPI president Dr. Shirley Jackson outlined a 15-point, return-to-campus plan.
The last point dealt with athletics, and reads: “Institute athletic teams will participate in intercollegiate athletics for NCAA programs during the 2021-2022 academic year. External spectators will not be permitted at this time. The Institute will continue to confer with the NCAA, the ECAC, and the Liberty League regarding subsequent decisions. Our recreation and intramural programs will be in complete alignment with federal, state, county, and institutional health and safety policies and protocols for testing, tracing, tracking, treatment, and quarantine or isolation as necessary. “
That means only students, faculty and staff will be allowed to attend games.
“One of the great phrases in that memorandum was that we will look at things as they unfold,” RPI athletic director Lee McElroy said in a telephone interview Sunday night. “We have a policy to see if the public safety environment changes at all. If it gets better, we’ll see.”
On Friday, an email was sent to RPI hockey season-ticket holders stating that, because of the return-to-campus plan, they are not selling season tickets for now.
“While RPI faculty, staff and students who are fully compliant with the Institute’s COVID-19 protocols will be allowed to attend games, the general public is not,” the letter stated. “Therefore, at this point, we will not be processing season ticket applications or individual game ticket sales to any non-campus community members. An exception may be for the ‘approved special events,’ though we need to gain clarification and specifics on that.”
WNYT was the first to report about the letter to the season-ticket holders.
McElroy said the recent upsurge in coronavirus cases played a role in making the decision to limit attendance.
“The return-to-campus plan for 2021-22 was based on a number of research and scientific information, so the university arrived at that point,” McElroy said. “We’re one of the few institutions, both in the Liberty League and the ECAC, that aren’t permitting external fans.”
All of RPI’s fall sports teams play outdoors. The first teams to play indoors are the men’s and women’s hockey teams. The men’s team, which hasn’t played a game since Feb. 29, 2020, at Dartmouth and last played at Houston Field House on Feb, 22, 2020, against Princeton, is scheduled to host Brock in an exhibition game Oct. 2 before opening the regular season Oct. 8 when Bowling Green visits.
The RPI women last played Feb. 22 at Colgate. Their last home game was Feb. 15 against Dartmouth. Their first game this season is Sept. 24 at Mercyhurst. Their home opener is Oct. 9 against Union.
McElroy said the school is updating the season-ticket holders on the situation.
“There are going to be a lot of people that are going to respond to the fact that they can’t see their son or daughter, that they can’t see their team,” McElroy said. “I’ve been in this business for more than 30 years. I’ve never seen such a loyal fan base as the hockey folks at Rensselaer. Obviously, they’re going to know from day to day where we are. We sent information out to them [Saturday], just reinforcing that this is where we are now. We’ll keep them informed on a daily basis if anything changes. That’s where we are now.”
One event not affected by the external fans ban is the men’s and women’s Mayor’s Cup games against Union on Jan. 29 at Times Union Center.
“That’s not on our campus,” McElroy said. “That’s all set for Jan. 29.”