WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Wichita State men’s basketball will open the season like never before on Wednesday against Oral Roberts.
Due to a Sedgwick County health mandate, the Shockers will play without its usual hoard of 10,506 fans at home until at least Dec. 31 in response to the COVID-19 crisis. Attendance (which includes players, coaches, officials, media and other essential personnel) will be capped at 100.
“Any facility capacity changes that the county decides to make for the month of January and beyond will be communicated as soon as that decision has been determined,” Wichita State Athletics said in a release.
It remains to be seen how playing in an empty arena will affect the Shockers as Charles Koch Arena’s streak of 244-consecutive regular-season games with at least 10,000 in attendance will come to an end.
“It’s going to be different, but it’s not going to be something we’re going to bring a lot of attention to,” said Wichita State athletic director Darron Boatright. “It is what it is. It’s the way that our young men and women practice everyday . . . Both teams are going are going to play from the same environment, so that’s a level playing field in my book.”
“I think for the guys, it’ll be like a normal game,” said interim head coach Isaac Brown. “When you’re a player and you’re in front of 11,000 fans, a lot of the time you don’t realize that they’re there.”
According to the university, any facility attendance changes in 2021 will be communicated as soon as that decision has been determined.
“Our student-athletes will certainly miss the energy in the building from Shocker Fans, but the safety of all involved must come first,” Wichita State Athletics said in a release.
Wednesday also marks Brown’s head coaching debut. The longtime college basketball assistant was named the Shockers’ interim head coach after the resignation of Gregg Marshall, the winningest coach in school history.
“I’m just excited just to see them to be able to go out and have the first game, because we’ve waited so long,” said Brown. “I’m just excited to see those guys get an opportunity to get on the court.”
While Shocker fans won’t physically be able to attend games, they can be there in spirit. WSU is selling fan cutouts, starting at $50. The two-and-a-half-foot tall “big heads” will be on display at all home men’s and women’s basketball and volleyball matches.
Wednesday’s game will air on ESPN+. The American Athletic Conference is in the first year of a new 12-year contract with ESPN, which now controls television rights to all conference games and all home non-conference action.