Okay, you’re a bog standard college AD struggling with the logistics of a stadium opening this season. Which of these two problems causes you more sleepless nights?
Another option, one this Power 5 school is leaning toward, is dividing the games into different ticket packages. For instance, at a school like Alabama, that could mean creating one ticket package that features home games against Georgia, Texas A&M, and Kent State and another of Auburn, Mississippi State and Georgia State. You’d still risk upsetting fans who can’t go to every game, but it’d ensure far more fans can at least get into some games. And you could still let your top donors have first pick on the ticket package and seats they want.
“More palatable to give everyone a little taste,” the administrator said.
Another major logistical challenge is getting everyone in and out of the stadium. If you’ve ever attended a college football game, you’ve been stuck on a long line waiting to get through a metal detector and ticket-checkers to get into the stadium. Now add in temperature checks for everyone coming in, a popular suggestion, and imagine how many people could get bunched up together in one place. If you somehow succeed at getting everyone in a timely fashion without being on top of each other, you need to get those same thousands of people out of the stadium.
“You expect 15,000 college football fans to exit in an orderly fashion when their row number is called? I’m sorry, you’ve got a lot more faith in fans than I do, especially if some of them have been drinking,” said Zachary Binney, an epidemiologist at Emory University. “I don’t know how you reliably would keep people apart when they are entering and exiting a stadium.”
If you can safely figure out all those issues, the experts say, you then need to consider that six feet between fans might not actually be enough. The reason is that distance is based on an average of how people breathe and how far droplets typically travel when you cough or sneeze. But during a college football game, the average attendant isn’t breathing or talking at their normal interval the whole game — they are yelling. More yelling means particles could travel farther which means fans might actually have to be more like 10 or 12 feet away from each other, according to Gandhi, rather than the established six feet. That could cut down stadium capacity even below the 20 percent range.
Push comes to shove, I’d guess number two there. After all, seeing your biggest donors get the coronavirus from attending a game isn’t a particularly good business plan.