INDIANAPOLIS — College basketball is back and looks different than it did last season. Across the country many crowds have returned in full capacity without masks.
This is the case at Butler University, as fans at Hinkle Fieldhouse can now pack the stands again and are not required to wear face coverings.
“I’m freaking pumped,” said Butler senior Sam Burchett, who showed up to the game two hours early in a Spider-Man onesie.
”We worked really hard to get here,” said Mark Apple, Butler University Director of Strategic Communications. “We have over 95% vaccination rate for our students and staff so we feel really safe making this decision.”
Apple said they do still have slight concern with fans from outside their “bubble” coming to games, but he said they’ve been looking to others for guidance.
”We’ve talked to the Marion County Health Department, we’ve seen what’s going on with the Pacers over the last month, the Colts for the last couple of months,” said Apple.
Based on the success those teams have seen welcoming fans back, Apple said they feel good about getting closer to normal and students definitely do, as well.
”It’s Hinkle magic, it’s back,” Burchett said. “To really have the stadium bouncing when there is big plays there is no other feeling like it.”
Maddy Jensen, a senior at Butler who also showed up more than an hour early for the game, said she’s excited for things to be back to normal for her senior year.
”The band is back, the cheerleaders are back, dance team is back,” Jensen said.
These guidelines aren’t exactly what you’ll see everywhere, though. Crowds at the University of Indiana at Bloomington and Purdue games will not be capped, but will be required to wear masks while inside their home stadiums.
”It’s still a good idea to wear a mask both to protect yourself and others, said Dr. Christopher Belcher, the Infection Prevention Medical Director at Ascension St. Vincent Indianapolis.
Belcher said if you’re vaccinated and wearing a mask you should feel pretty safe cheering on your team indoors.
”I think you’re about as comfortable as you can be, the only safe thing would be watching the game from home,” Belcher said.
Of course, you’re always welcome to wear a mask at Butler basketball games even if they’re no longer required.
”Feel free if you feel like doing so,” said Apple.