Mask mandate back at Allen Fieldhouse; chancellor warns crowd size may be limited if compliance wanes

Allen Fieldhouse as seen from above during the first half of KU's home game with George Mason on Saturday, Jan. 1, 2022.

Allen Fieldhouse as seen from above during the first half of KU's home game with George Mason on Saturday, Jan. 1, 2022.

Friday, January 7, 2022

Updated at 11:13 a.m. Friday

The University of Kansas’ chancellor is warning fans that KU may limit attendance at basketball games at Allen Fieldhouse if fans don’t start doing a better job of wearing masks.

Chancellor Douglas Girod on Friday sent a message to the campus community reiterating that Douglas County’s new mask mandate does include Allen Fieldhouse. The fieldhouse previously had been under a mask mandate as part of KU policy, but then over the last two weeks lifted the mandate for the fieldhouse in favor of a recommendation that fans wear mask.

KU leaders have yet to explain why they were comfortable lifting that mask mandate, but Girod on Friday said KU leaders had noticed poor compliance with the mask mandate as the fall semester progressed.

In Friday’s message, he said fans should be clear on the fact the mask mandate is back for the fieldhouse and that it needs to be followed.

“I want to be very clear how important it is that fans adhere to the mask policy within Allen Fieldhouse beginning with our next women’s home game on Saturday, Jan. 8, versus Oklahoma and our men’s game Tuesday, Jan. 11, versus Iowa State,” Girod said in his written message. “The reality is, if the situation in our county continues to deteriorate, and if mask wearing continues to be a challenge inside the Fieldhouse, likely next steps include closing concessions and reducing fan attendance for men’s basketball games.”

The mask policy inside the fieldhouse has allowed fans to have their masks off while actively eating or drinking. Closing the concession stands theoretically would mean fans would need to wear their masks at all times, and would make it easier for KU officials to definitively spot people who are not adhering to the policy.

KU men's basketball coach Bill Self supported the chancellor's comments at a press conference Friday morning.

“I don’t think that’s a threat. I think that’s reality," Self said of the chancellor's warning of reduced crowd sizes and other changes. "Nobody wants this. But the fact that the surge is happening and we’re dealing with it and the CDC has given their guidelines and municipalities have given their guidelines, we need to adhere to caution.”

Self said he's preparing to make changes to his mask-wearing routine during games, if needed.

“I’m going to coach in a mask if that’s what the mandate says I do," Self said. "And I certainly won’t complain about that if that’s what the rules are.”

Girod said the new mask mandate for Douglas County should not change many of the operations on other parts of the campus. While KU leaders had removed the mask mandate for Allen Fieldhouse, they had not ever removed the mandate for students, staff and visitors to wear masks in virtually all other campus buildings.

“Here at KU, we have had a strong culture of mask wearing and adherence to our mask requirement in our academic spaces,” Girod said. “This, coupled with our high vaccination rates among students and employees, has enabled us to remain on campus and be as safe as any university in the country.”

Girod said he was sympathetic with people who have grown weary of the pandemic requirements, but urged the KU community to remain vigilant, and he encouraged everyone to get vaccinated and get a booster shot.

“We recognize the pandemic has taken a toll on each of us, and we are all weary,” Girod said. “But the virus continues to impact our community. Now is the time to renew our efforts – both on campus and throughout the county – to protect our community. I know I can count on you to do this, beginning with mask wearing in Allen Fieldhouse.”

In-person classes are scheduled to restart on the KU campus for the spring semester on Jan. 18.