Monday, October 12, 2020
Disjointed Fan Attendance Policies Are a Problem
If you took a look at the stands at Texas A&M's Kyle Field on Saturday, you may have felt a sense of normalcy that's been sorely missing for many Americans over the past six months. Thousands of screaming fans, waving towels, and cheering their Aggies on to a thrilling 41-38 victory over the previously fourth-ranked Florida Gators.
Following the loss, Gators head coach Dan Mullens made his feelings regarding fan attendance in the SEC known loud and clear.
"Absolutely want to see 90,000 in the Swamp", Mullen said, referencing next week's home match up with LSU.
"(The) crowd was certainly a factor in the game, I will certainly say that."
While Mullen claimed it felt like 50,000 people were behind the Gators bench, and the announced crowd at Kyle Field was just 24,709, his statements may have reignited the discussion surrounding fan attendance at college football games. Thus far, attendance policies have been a murky, disjointed mess, varying widely by conference, school, and state.
All SEC schools are allowing fans at home games, but the conference passed no uniform guidelines regarding a cap on percentage of stadium capacity that may be utilized. While most teams in the conference have set their capacity at 20-25% of normal, there's really nothing stopping teams from arbitrarily adjusting the percentage, and its very difficult to police whether the number is being adhered too, along with facial covering requirements, concessions, etc.
Meanwhile, some Big 12 and ACC teams have allowed fans at contests, with others opting to bar fans the first few weeks of the season only to open up in the month of October. The Pac-12 and Big 10, which will begin their truncated seasons late, will not allow fans.
Confused yet? I had to reference 10 open tabs just to type those few sentences. Does any of this make any sense?
In short, no. And it's emblematic of the disorganized, incohesive, arbitrary approach the country has taken to the COVID-19 issue from the start. Policies and enforcement of guidelines varies widely from state to state, county to county, city to city. Some areas have remained in perpetual lockdown for months, while others are completely open, simply based on who the mayor or governor is in the area.
Thousands of fans allowed at multiple college football stadiums and a handful of NFL stadiums, but none allowed at any MLB games? Does the shape of the ball determine the risk for infection? One could make a case it makes sense to bar fans from indoor sports like basketball and hockey, but 13,000 fans can attend a Houston Texans game while none are allowed at an MLB playoff game at Minute Maid Park?
Slowly, the madness seems to easing ever so slightly, with new NFL teams announcing they will allow a limited number of fans at home games. Hopefully by midseason, most if not all, will follow suit with continued increases in the amount of fans allowed. A limited number of fans will be allowed to attend the World Series.
Returning to college football, I struggled all week to formulate a topic I wanted to cover, based solely on how difficult it is to even keep track of who's playing, much less measure the college football landscape when the season has been blown to bits. But I found coach Mullens' adamant comments intriguing, and the small but mighty crowd in College Station encouraging.
Perhaps there is a glimmer of hope for 2020 after all. Let's pack The Swamp with 90k.