The winter sports season in New Jersey has been given the green light to start, as Gov. Phil Murphy (D-N.J.) passed an executive order on Monday that allowed winter sports to resume practices and games.
The order specifically targeted sports that Murphy described as either “medium risk” or “high risk," including basketball, hockey and wrestling.
The amount of people allowed at a sporting event or practice is limited to 25 percent capacity of the room or 25 people, whichever is smaller, according to the order. The order also states that if the number of players, coaches and officials exceeds 25, then fans will be prohibited from the event.
The Rutgers men’s basketball team has 15 players on their roster for this upcoming season.
Having the Rutgers Athletic Center (RAC) empty all season would be a far cry from what the arena was like last year. During the 2019-20 season, the Scarlet Knights set an arena record by selling out 10 of their 19 home games, which included two court storms after wins over Seton Hall and Maryland.
Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame inductee Jim Calhoun, whom Pikiell played for at University of Connecticut and went to advice for regarding the Rutgers coaching job, noted the RAC as one of the toughest places to play in the nation, according to Sports Illustrated.
A place called the “Trapezoid of Terror” by many students and fans could be mostly silent this year due to the safety precautions in effect to prevent an outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
“I told our guys, the teams that handle the pandemic the best are going to have a chance to have a really good year,” Pikiell said, according to the Asbury Park Press. “Not having fans at home, we’re going to have to push through that. Hopefully it will help us on the road, too.”
Even before Murphy’s order went into effect, the University has already seen how the pandemic can impact athletic seasons. The basketball team canceled a game with Baylor in the Jimmy V Classic.
This game was meant to take place in Florida after originally being scheduled to take place in Madison Square Garden.
Pikiell cited the travel restrictions and lack of a finalized conference schedule as reasons the Knights chose to pull out of the game, according to the Asbury Park Press.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has been challenging for our student-athletes, support staff and school communities,” Murphy said, according to Montclair Local News. “After consulting stakeholders and medical experts, we have concluded that, with proper public health and safety protocols in place, indoor sports may now resume in a way that protects players, coaches and staff.”
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