Don’t expect to see a full Notre Dame Stadium in 2020.
As schools across the country make plans to play football amid the coronavirus pandemic, limiting attendance at games is one of the most widely-considered ways to keep football as safe as possible. And Notre Dame president Rev. John I. Jenkins wrote in a New York Times editorial on Tuesday that he doesn’t see any way that Notre Dame Stadium will be able to host as many fans as it typically can during the upcoming season.
From the Times:
Athletic competition presents another set of challenges. We believe we can, with aggressive testing, hygiene and careful monitoring, keep student-athletes safe. Indeed, keeping healthy relatively small cadres of student-athletes, coaches and support staff members is a less daunting challenge than keeping safe the several thousand other people in the campus community.
Fans in the stadium, however, are a different matter. Fighting Irish fans regularly fill Notre Dame Stadium’s 80,000 seats. I see no way currently to allow spectators unless we restrict admissions so that physical distancing is possible.
Our focus to this point has been on restarting our educational and research efforts, and we will soon turn to answer the question of how many games we will play, when we will play them and how many fans will be in the stadium.
Notre Dame announced fall plans on May 18
Notre Dame became one of the first schools to make its on-campus fall semester plans public when it revealed last week that it would start the semester on Aug. 10. That’s two weeks earlier than initially scheduled so students can complete the semester before the Thanksgiving break and not return to campus in December.
Other schools are taking similar measures. With the possibility of a second wave of the pandemic coming during the winter, schools don’t want to risk their students coming back to campus after they leave for Thanksgiving.
How many fans can schools allow?
It’s highly unlikely that we’ll see any full college football stadiums in 2020 unless things improve drastically over the summer months. Schools simply aren’t going to want to risk packing thousands of people into a stadium. And even if they did, there would likely be a lot of hesitant fans who would choose not to go if they had to sit among large numbers of other people.
The details of social distancing plans at football games are going to be far from universal. They will likely vary on a state-by-state basis with heavy input from state and local authorities. While Ohio State could potentially host 40,000 fans in its stadium this fall, a school like Oregon may not be able to have fans at all.
But it’s hard to figure out just how schools will handle fan attendance right now. Heck, they probably have no real idea how they’re going to be able to do things either. There’s still so much that can change over the next three months. And if you do want to safely attend a football game in the fall it’s going to be a far different experience than you’re used to if you’re going to be able to go.
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.
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