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Staff file photo / UTC basketball games in McKenzie Arena will not have fans present in November and December, the school announced Thursday.

The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga will not permit fans at home basketball games through the end of the calendar year due to "challenges and safety concerns brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic," according to a UTC release.

The decision, announced Thursday, will affect seven games at McKenzie Arena: four for the men's team — the season opener versus Bellarmine (Nov. 25), plus Northern Kentucky (Nov. 28), UNC Asheville (Dec. 16) and the Southern Conference opener against Furman (Dec. 30) — and three for the women's team — the season opener versus the University of Alabama at Birmingham (Dec. 6), plus Vanderbilt (Dec. 13) and Eastern Kentucky (Dec. 18).

The women's team already had two games canceled due to COVID-19 concerns — Nov. 25 at Tennessee State and Nov. 29 at home against Tennessee Tech — and the men's team had a Dec. 16 date against Cumberland, an NAIA program from the Nashville area, canceled for reasons related to COVID-19.

"We have a very passionate and supportive fan base, and I hate to not give them the opportunity to see our student-athletes perform in person," UTC athletic director Mark Wharton said in the release. "However, after consulting with our university medical staff and executive leadership team, we feel that for the health and safety of everyone involved, this is the best decision. We will reevaluate this prior to the start of games in January and communicate any changes in plans at that time."

All games will be streamed on ESPN Plus/ESPN3, with the radio broadcast on the Moc Sports Network on WFLI 97.7/1070 AM and at GoMocs.com.

Fans who purchased passes for November and December home games will be contacted by UTC ticket office personnel with the option to receive either a full refund or a ticket for a later game or convert the purchase to a contribution to the Mocs Fly Together Fund.

Contact Gene Henley at ghenley@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @genehenley3.

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