College ADs Brace for Football at Reduced Capacity

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Limiting attendance at college football games may satisfy a fraction of a school's fan base on any given Saturday this fall amid ongoing coronavirus concerns, but such a practice will fall well short of feeding the college athletics beast.

“If the football season doesn’t look like a traditional season, we’re out millions and millions upon millions of dollars,” University of Nebraska athletic director Bill Moos said in an interview with the Omaha World-Herald. “It’s eye-opening, to say the least.”

Moos estimates that even at 50 percent capacity, Nebraska could lose $6 million per home game played at 90,000-seat Memorial Stadium. If the stadium is only allowed to host 20,000 or 30,000 fans per game, which has been estimated by some other athletic directors, the loss of profits would increase dramatically, the World-Herald reported. The Huskers stand to lose around $27 million in game-day revenue alone, if they’re only allowed to operate with 20,000 fans in the stadium — less than a quarter of capacity.

The University of Kansas is modeling for 15,000 to 16,000 fans in Booth Memorial Stadium, or roughly one-third its 47,000-seat capacity, according to The Kansas City Star.

“Right now, it’s not a good look,” Kansas athletic director Jeff Long said Tuesday during a panel discussion with doctors from the university's health system. “But as you pointed out, in two weeks, three weeks, three months ... we’re going to know a lot more about what we’ll be able to do and how our fans will want to come back.”

Also on Tuesday, Iowa State AD Jamie Pollard said that the Cyclones are hoping to play in front of 30,000 fans at Jack Trice Stadium, which holds twice as many on a typical game day.

As reported by The Associated Press, about 22,000 season tickets have been renewed, leaving 8,000 seats to be filled. Fans not renewing their season tickets and making their Cyclone Club donation by June 12 won't be allowed to attend games unless guidelines change and capacity can exceed 50 percent. Single-game tickets sales are unlikely unless capacity is increased.

Season ticket holders who don't renew for 2020 will continue to have first rights on their same seats for 2021, and those who renew but later decide they aren't comfortable attending games because of fear of coronavirus infection can request a refund or defer the purchase of their season tickets to the 2021 season.

Pollard is making no promises when it comes to fan safety. The university is planning to do what it can to mitigate the risk of coronavirus infection at events, and will announce those plans before the start of football season. "After consulting with campus officials, we have concluded there is no reasonable way to guarantee that no one will contract the COVID-19 virus," Pollard wrote in a letter posted to the ISU athletics website. "Trying to adhere to a standard of absolute protection is simply not reasonable. We would either be held accountable for being far too restrictive or, more likely, not restrictive enough.

"It will ultimately be up to each attendee to decide whether they are comfortable attending games given the mitigation strategies we will implement. That decision will remain a personal choice that all attendees need to make."

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