Dayton Flyers will play in front of no fans in first A-10 road game

Anthony Grant interview (Jan. 2, 2020)

UD heads to New York City for game at Fordham

The coronavirus pandemic has eliminated the postgame handshake line, but it has not killed the postgame hug. Dayton Flyers point guard Jalen Crutcher received a long embrace from coach Anthony Grant after a 75-64 victory against George Mason on Saturday at UD Arena.

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The Flyers leave the court these days with little fanfare. There are no fans near the tunnel, so they don’t stop for autographs. They don’t slap hands with members of the Flyer Faithful before heading to the locker room. The only fans present watch the scene do so from the other side of the arena.

That at least will prepare Dayton for life on the road this season in the Atlantic 10 Conference. The atmosphere at road games rarely measures up to what Dayton experiences at home. In 2021, most schools will be on equal footing when it comes to attendance.

Dayton can have as many as 300 fans in the stands this season, but has let in closer to 100 — mostly family members of players and coaches — at the first five home games. The Flyers (5-2, 1-1) play their first true road game of the season at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Fordham (0-2, 0-2), which is not allowing any fans to attend games.

To appease the fans who can’t attend games, Fordham provided 100 complimentary ESPN+ subscriptions to its fan base. That’s where the game Tuesday will be televised.

“Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the many challenges that it has provided our department this year, we want to make sure our fans and supporters can follow along from home as easily as possible,” interim Fordham AD Ed Kull said in a press release in December. “In this unique environment, keeping our fans connected has been a top priority of our department. With basketball season underway, we hope this provides a source of excitement and happiness for our fans to remain engaged throughout the season while they root on Fordham basketball from home.”

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Fordham raised $27,000 in a “virtual sellout program” in the fall. The campaign gave fans a chance to make donations in support of the program even though they knew they wouldn’t be able to attend games.

Every game that gets played without a postponement is a bonus for A-10 teams. Saint Louis, which delivered the best non-conference performance in the league, had to postpone its first three conference games because of COVID-19 issues. VCU postponed its game against Davidson and paused all team activities Saturday for the same reason but returned to practice Monday.

Fordham lost its entire six-game non-conference schedule because of positive COVID-19 tests.

Dayton (5-2, 1-1) has played seven games since its last postponement. All but one of the games has taken place in front of small crowds at UD Arena, and limited attendance will continue to be the policy in the weeks ahead.

In late December, Dayton Athletic Director Neil Sullivan said UD made another variance request with the department of public health to see if it could get more fans into the arena, but that request was denied, just as it was before the season, because of current COVID trends.

Dayton has seven home games remaining, and Sullivan said UD will pursue additional variance requests throughout the season.

“We’re disappointed for our fans, who we know want to support our teams,” Sullivan said in a video on the Dayton Flyers’ official YouTube.com channel. “We’re disappointed for our players, who love and cherish the opportunity to play in front of you. But make no mistake, the health of you, our community, protecting hospitals and health-care workers and being a responsible university citizen is the most important thing we can do at this time.”

Dayton vs. George Mason: Highlights from last five minutes on Jan. 2, 2020

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