Editorial | Masking at campus sports events needs improvement

     Any spectator of live sports knows that supporter turnout can influence the outcome of a game; the more fans, the better — and this rings true for our Mountain Lion teams. However, the university has enabled an unsafe environment for sports spectators on the UCCS campus. 

     Game administrators require mask enforcement for spectators upon entrance at sports events; however, many individuals only keep their mask on until they sit down. There is some signage reminding people that masks are required indoors, and an alert at the top of the Go Mountain Lions website bears the same message, but spectators often choose to dismiss this directive. 

     The campus mask mandate has required students to wear masks indoors on campus since the beginning of the fall semester. However, on nights when the Gallogly Events Center hosts athletic events, the mandate apparently doesn’t matter. 

     During sporting events including basketball games at the end of January and volleyball games during the fall 2021 semester, Scribe reporters have witnessed a pattern of gross non-compliance with the mask mandate and — even more surprising — no efforts to individually enforce the mandate. According to athletics director Nathan Gibson, there have not been any recorded transmissions of COVID-19 at athletic events, but this should not be grounds to disregard campus rules. 

     Some spectators visit our campus with teams from out of town and may not be completely informed about the campus mask mandate. However, UCCS students have been wearing masks on campus since we came back in fall 2020. We should know better, but the athletic department also needs to do more to enforce mask-wearing for all spectators in accordance with campus policies. 

     “When it comes to larger events, like sports games, I recognize that there is room for improvement in compliance with our campus face covering directive,” said Chancellor Venkat Reddy in an email. “As you know, sports events sometimes attract large crowds, and our game administrators are challenged in personally reminding every spectator throughout the contest to keep their mask on.” 

     At Colorado College hockey, ushers monitor masks throughout games and personally address non-compliant individuals. When spectators refuse to wear a mask, or they are reminded more than once to replace their mask, they are escorted out and risk being banned from attending future events. 

     Instead of committing to creating a safe environment for spectators, Gibson has suggested student supporters can stay home. “We recognize indoor athletic events might not be a comfortable setting for some particularly given the prevalence of the Omicron variant and we would recommend those spectators support the Mountain Lions through virtual or televised options,” he wrote in an email. 

     This message is discouraging to school spirit and counterproductive to UCCS’ mission to provide in-person college experiences. All students should have the opportunity to support our Mountain Lions in a safe environment while adhering to campus policies. Student athletes have also worked hard to train and represent our school, and they deserve live support.  

     Instead of asking students to watch games virtually, the athletics department should actively enforce masks to create a safe event environment for everyone. Game administrators should be engaging with non-compliant spectators and making regular reminder announcements over the PA system. UCCS Athletics should also set a clear policy and follow through on enforcement procedures. 

     Campus policies in response to COVID-19 exist to protect the campus community, and everyone — students, faculty and staff — should be doing their part to “Protect the Pride” while supporting the Mountain Lions. 

Spectators at a volleyball game in the Gallogly Events Center in September 2021. Photo by Lexi Petri.