The Bowdoin College women’s basketball team will play NCAA playoff games at an empty Morrell Gymnasium this weekend as a precaution against the possible spread of coronavirus. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer Buy this Photo

Bowdoin College will not allow fans to attend this weekend’s NCAA Division III women’s basketball sectional tournament games in Brunswick in light of coronavirus concerns.

The college announced Tuesday afternoon that no spectators would be allowed into Morrell Gymnasium for the games played there Friday and Saturday. Only essential personnel will be allowed into the gym.

A statement on the school’s website said, “The college reached the decision after monitoring recent developments with the COVID-19 virus in the New England region and consulting with both on- and off-campus medical providers.”

Bowdoin becomes the latest school to host NCAA basketball games without fans in attendance amid the coronavirus outbreak. Amherst University in western Massachusetts did the same last weekend and plans to exclude fans again this weekend for women’s sectional games.

Johns Hopkins in Baltimore didn’t let fans in for men’s tournament games last weekend. The Ivy League cancelled its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments on Tuesday, stating that the regular-season champions would advance to the NCAA Division I tournament.

Maine has no confirmed coronavirus cases, but there have been at least 29 coronavirus deaths in the United States with 800 people testing positive across the nation.

Jim Caton, Bowdoin’s assistant athletic director for communications, said the only personnel allowed into the games will be those listed on each team’s 25-person credentialed list. That will include team staff and trainers, as well as any game operation individuals. “It’s not parents, it’s not fans,” Caton said. He said no local media will be allowed.

Lynne Hasson, the South Portland High girls’ basketball coach and mother of Bowdoin star senior center Maddie Hasson, said she anticipated the decision but that it was still “really disappointing.”

“You were just hoping that they could somehow restrict it, or allow the parents in,” she said. “Realistically we were thinking it would come to this. But it’s still really sad.”

Hasson said she is looking to set up something to watch the game with other parents. The games will be broadcast live on Northeast Sports Network and games involving Bowdoin will be carried locally on WCME radio (99.5 FM/900 AM).

“At least we’re in a day and age where we can see the game, even if we can’t be at it,” Lynne Hasson said. “But after four years, Maddie’s last home game, either Friday or Saturday … it’s sad. And that place, for those kids, has been special.”

Last weekend Bowdoin hosted early-round NCAA tournament games, drawing 1,200 fans on Friday evening and 1,000 on Saturday.

Bowdoin (27-2) is scheduled to play Trine University of Indiana (23-6) at 7 p.m. Friday. Whitman (Washington) is scheduled to play Oglethorpe (Georgia) at 5 p.m. in the earlier game. Friday’s winners will play in a NCAA quarterfinal game at Bowdoin at 7 p.m. Saturday. The winner of that game will advance to the NCAA Division III Final Four in Columbus, Ohio, on March 20-21.

The Polar Bears have reached the NCAA Division III championship game each of the last two years.

Before the announcement was made, Bowdoin players spoke earlier Tuesday about the possibility of playing in an empty gym.

“Regardless of whether or not (fans are allowed), we’re going to play our hardest, play with our teammates,” said junior guard Moira Train of Cumberland. “That’s all that matters.”

Junior forward Dorian Cohen added, “Whether fans are there or not, we’re still in our gym, playing for our team, playing for our coaches. Besides that, nothing else matters.”


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