The normal goal for a high school athletic director two days before a boys basketball regional begins is to make sure all of the logistics are in order and to help ensure that ticket sales and enthusiasm remain high for their school's fans.

On Thursday, the normal routine was tossed aside — another side-effect of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

"Let's just say today was a crazy day," Parke Heritage athletic director and boys basketball coach Rich Schelsky said.

The Indiana High School Athletic Association announced Thursday that the boys basketball tournament will have restrictions as far as who can attend the games for the regional round to take place on Saturday.

Attendance will be restricted to essential tournament personnel, some school administrators, immediate family, broadcast television and credentialed media media members.

IHSAA commissioner Bobby Cox said a maximum of 75 per school will be admitted to the regional.

"The IHSAA continues to monitor the impact of COVID-19 around our state. Our primary focus has been and will continue to be the health and safety of our students and supporters attending our events," the IHSAA said in a statement.

"Given the recent and ongoing spread of the coronavirus and available information surrounding the pandemic, the IHSAA will conclude all winter tournament series events as scheduled with limited to no spectators in attendance," the statement continued.

The restrictions excludes cheerleaders, pep bands, mascots and dance teams from the event.

Anyone holding a regional ticket will be issued a full refund at the point of purchase. Individuals must present the ticket(s) in order to receive a refund, according to the IHSAA.

This was earth-shattering news and school officials like Schelsky and Linton athletic director Charlie Karazsia were thrust into the middle of it.

Both area schools are scheduled to compete in two different 2A regionals.

Parke Heritage is at Greenfield-Central where it will play Shenandoah in a regional semifinal at noon. Linton is at Southridge where it will play Crawford County in a regional semifinal at noon.

"We're very disappointed our fans won't be able to go to the ballgame because we have such good support here," Linton athletic director Charlie Karazsia said. "Our cheerleaders can't go, our pep club can't go, our fans can't go, and we're limited to 75 people, but we're excited to be playing for a regional championship. So we're trying to take the high road, it's something that happens, we just have to deal with it."

The logistics of the situation are unusual. Within that group of 75, players don't count, but everyone else does, including coaches and administrators. Karazsia highlighted the process Linton used to get to its number.

"You start with your coaches, their wives and families. Then you go back to the players and any immediate family, their mom, dad, grandparents, siblings, you break it down," Karazsia said. "You take a lot at how many you after that, then you go with administration. The athletic director, principal and superintendent. Hopefully, 75 is enough to get everyone there."

Karazsia noted that Linton had enough to accommodate that group, but could have easily handled 75 more. He also noted how the entrance procedure will work at Southridge and other sites.

"We'll have a gate in Huntingburg [site of Southridge]. We'll have a list of names of people and they'll check their names off. If they're not on the list, they can't get in. ... fans will be limited only to teams that they're there for," Karazsia said.

Linton is famous for its rabid support. With refunds being given to fans who had already purchased tickets, it was a disappointing day for many Miners fans who came to get their refund.

"We sold a ton of presale tickets. We made an announcement, put it on Facebook, and said we'd reimburse for the ticket. That added some pressure, not for me so much as the athletic secretaries to get that back and having to tell them they had to watch on TV. That disappointed a lot of people," Karazsia said.

Fans will only be allowed into the games that feature their teams. They cannot attend the regional if it doesn't involve the team on which they were listed.

For now, the IHSAA said this will also be the plan for semistate and state championship weekends.

"The Association acknowledges these are unprecedented measures and is sympathetic to the loyal fans of education-based athletics in Indiana. Your understanding and support during these challenging times is appreciated," the IHSAA statement said.

The IHSAA decision comes in the wake of most major conference tournaments being canceled outright. The NCAA announced later on Thursday that both the men's and women's basketball tournaments would be scrapped. Every major conference tournament for both genders was canceled on Thursday.

In his coaching duties, Schelsky has kept things routine as possible for his players.

"We haven't done anything different. We're practicing after school and we're getting on buses early tomorrow to practice at Greenfield and stay all night and things like that. From that standpoint, it's been a normal week," Schelsky said.

However, he acknowledges that decisions made by other regulating bodies in sports since the IHSAA made its own decision at noon Thursday could change things.

"It's something nobody's ever dealt with. The fear of the unknown has everyone antsy. You look around and see everything getting postponed. You think there's a chance we might be next," Schelsky said.
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