Attendance plans among football-playing colleges and universities fall somewhere on a scale between extreme caution and unbridled optimism.
Two programs who announced their intentions Monday exemplify the disparate approaches regarding how best to accommodate fans, while keeping them safe, amid the ongoing and — in some parts of the country — surging coronavirus pandemic.
In a letter to Longhorns football season-ticket holders Monday, University of Texas athletic director Chris Del Conte said he anticipates Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium will be filled at 50 percent capacity for UT football home games in 2020. As reported by Austin-based NBC affiliate KXAN, Texas governor Greg Abbott’s executive order currently allows for 50 percent capacity at professional and collegiate outdoor stadiums throughout the state.
Rutgers, meanwhile, became the first Power Five program to have a definitive number on the amount of fans it can have in its home stadium for football games in the fall — if the season is not delayed. The number is a scant 500, according to Yahoo Sports.
“All Rutgers Athletics venues will operate in accordance with the executive orders issued by New Jersey governor Phil Murphy limiting outdoor gatherings to 500 people or fewer,” the university stated in a news release. “All safety precautions will be in place for those individuals who will be in attendance.”
The limit of 500 “does not include players, officials and other employees of the teams.” It is unclear how long the governor’s order will remain in effect.
While New Jersey, where Rutgers is located, has experienced three times the coronavirus-related deaths that Texas has, Texas currently has almost three times the active cases — including 200,000 new cases since June 20.
On June 24, University of Tennessee athletic director Phil Fulmer expressed extreme optimism, stating he was still hoping to fill Neyland Stadium to its 102,455-seat capacity for football this fall. Tennessee has experienced fewer than 1,000 COVID-19 deaths to date.