No Fans, No Problem: For YU, Winning is Contagious


What if they played a basketball playoff game and nobody came?

That was the situation the Yeshiva University’s men’s basketball team found itself in Saturday night.

The 29-1 Maccabees, winners of the 2020 Skyline Conference championship, played a second-round NCAA Division III playoff game against Penn State Harrisburg in the Goldfarb Gymnasium of Johns Hopkins University. The gym seats 1,100 fans, but the NCAA, bowing to caution over the coronavirus disease, ruled that the game be played with no one in the stands.

So the Macs won, 102-83, in front of a handful of officials and reporters.

A day earlier the team beat Worcester Polytechnic Institute, 102-78, also in an empty gym, in what was believed to be the first sporting event in this country to take place without fans as a coronavirus precaution.

This, after the hotel in suburban Baltimore had cancelled the reservations of the team after it was announced that a few YU students (not on the team) had tested positive for the disease. The team was able to find alternative accommodations in a hotel in downtown Baltimore.

Playing in an empty, quiet gym did not affect the players’ concentration,” coach Elliot Steinmetz told The Jewish Week. “Once the game started, we were pretty focused” on the competition.

Players’ parents and other fans who traveled to Baltimore watched the games live-streamed in their hotel rooms.

With the Penn State Harrisburg victory, YU reached the Sweet 16 round of the Division III playoffs for the first time ever.

The games with PSH and WPI featured pre-game fist-bumps instead of the customary hand slaps during player introductions.

The next game of the Macs, who cracked Division III’s Top 25 for the first time this season, is against Randolph-Macon College, Friday at 2 p.m., in Ashland, Va. Randolph-Macon is third-ranked in Division III. According to the betting line website, YU is a 7.5-point favorite.

In Baltimore last week, the Macs faced the “problem” of finishing their game in time to shower afterwards and get back to their hotel in time for Shabbat. They will face the same Friday afternoon situation in Ashland this week. And next week, if they advance to the next playoff round.

“We’re happy,” Steinmetz said, “to have that problem constantly.”