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One college football program’s road map to a COVID-19 season

Iowa State has started to answer two of the biggest questions facing the Gators, Seminoles, Bulls and everyone else about 2020.
Iowa State expects Jack Trice Stadium to be at about half capacity this season.
Iowa State expects Jack Trice Stadium to be at about half capacity this season. [ MATTHEW PUTNEY | AP ]
Published May 26, 2020

As college football deals with the uncertainty of the upcoming season (including whether it will happen), Iowa State has provided the most detailed outline of what its return to play will look like this fall in the COVID-19 era.

In an open letter to the fan base, athletic director Jamie Pollard addressed the two biggest questions surrounding the sport: Will there be a season, and will fans be allowed to go to games?

Related: We’re starting to get answers about college football in the COVID-19 era

Pollard’s answer to the first question? “As of today, we fully anticipate playing football in Jack Trice Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 5,” Pollard wrote.

That’s not a surprise; most administrators are publicly saying that they, too, expect an on-time start to the season.

But his answers to the second question were more interesting.

Pollard wrote that Iowa State is expecting to allow only 30,000 spectators into its stadium. That’s about half its capacity (61,500).

Pollard also gave some insight into the obvious next question: Which 30,000 spectators will be allowed in?

Iowa State has about 22,000 season ticket renewals so far, which leaves 8,000 left. Pollard wrote that fans have until June 12 to renew their season tickets and make their donation to the Cyclone Club, otherwise they won’t be able to attend a game in person “unless it is later decided that we can safely exceed the 50% capacity restriction.”

Given the likely restrictions, the Cyclones don’t expect to sell single-game tickets. But they’re also being flexible to season ticket holders who don’t want to attend this year. They’ll still get the ability to reclaim their seats in 2021, and they’ll be able to get refunds or defer their tickets to next year if they don’t feel comfortable attending.

Why do the decisions of a Big 12 school matter in Florida? Because all other schools, including Florida, Florida State, USF and Miami, are trying to answer these same questions themselves.

It is possible, if not likely, that different schools make different decisions, based on the specific public health, athletic and administrative issues at each campus. Miami’s president said last week that he expects the Hurricanes to play in empty stadiums. The Gators and Seminoles and Bulls might decide differently. And Iowa State’s plans may change in the coming weeks based on the pandemic and our knowledge of the novel coronavirus.

Related: Could college football start without every team? It has before

But one school finally took the step of turning hypotheticals into a substantive outline. We’ll see if any other programs follow the Cyclones’ template.

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