Will there be an on-time college football season with fans in attendance?
Still 101 days out from its scheduled season opener Sept. 5, the University of Iowa athletics department is still operating with that premise.
“How realistic is that, that we stay on that track?” said Matt Henderson, senior associate athletics director at Iowa. “That’s the answer everyone is waiting for. We don’t have that answer yet. We’re still 15 weeks from kicking off.”
Friday’s deadline for Iowa football season-ticket renewals is a reflection that, even with so many unknowns ahead amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the business side of college sports is continuing.
And, more than ever, fans have questions and concerns about ticket purchases.
Here are some answers.
Have ticket sales been slow?
Slower than usual, as you would expect, but not bad.
In a normal year, Henderson said that Iowa’s season ticketholder renewal rate is between 85% and 95%. Henderson said the renewal rate for 2020 is between 65% and 70% so far, but he expects that figure to increase with a usual last-minute surge of renewals. This year’s deadline was pushed back from March 30.
“We’re in what we would consider pretty good position,” Henderson said.
Including students, Iowa’s season-ticket base comprises roughly 48,000 seats of Kinnick Stadium’s capacity of 69,250.
What happens if games are canceled or rescheduled?
Iowa has changed its no-refund policy for 2020, given the coronavirus concerns.
“Because of the challenges that people are going through, we put a policy in place that if the season were to be disrupted,” Henderson said, “we would either credit (for future games) or refund.”
What about fans who are uncomfortable attending games in 2020 but want to return in 2021?
Henderson said the university has fielded many such calls.
Fans who fall into this category will receive points credit for a year of purchase for 2020 (three points in the priority system Iowa uses for seat selections), provided they return in 2021.
However, there is no guarantee that your 2019 seats would be available in 2021.
What is the latest policy on per-seat donations?
At Kinnick, a seat at the 50-yard line requires a $600 per-seat donation. So, let’s suppose a ticketholder has four seats — therefore a minimum $2,400 annual contribution to the university to secure those seats.
“If we don’t play, we’ll refund that gift,” Henderson said, “or credit it to the next season.”
Henderson said there has not been a determination about the per-seat donations if there’s reduced attendance; that decision would depend on how many fans would be permitted.
“We will continue to monitor and adjust our policies as it relates to the information we gather (about COVID-19),” Henderson said. “At the end of the day, we want to be fair to our loyal, generous fans who have been with us.”
If there is reduced capacity, who would be allowed inside Kinnick Stadium?
Iowa is operating on a premise that there will be on-time games and no seating limitations — even as Iowa State announced Tuesday it was planning to limit capacity at Jack Trice Stadium to 30,000.
But let’s suppose capacity recommended by health experts is limited to 20% (a number Ohio State athletics director Gene Smith suggested as possible). That would allow for roughly 14,000 fans at Kinnick Stadium. In this hypothetical scenario, which 14,000 get in?
Season ticketholders, naturally. But it would not just be the 14,000 tickets tied to the biggest financial contributors.
“We would look at a combination (approach) to take care of our fan base,” Henderson said.
What are some other key dates for tickets?
On June 8, the seat-upgrade process begins for season ticketholders.
On June 30, three-game “mini-packs” will be made available.
On July 13, sales for groups and the Hawkeye Village begins.
On July 30, single-game tickets will be made available to the general public.
But, of course, in our new world things can change quickly. And more questions will surely arise.
“We’re very cognizant that there are a lot of questions. We’re trying our best to answer these,” Henderson said. “There will come a time when we have to make (final decisions). We’re trying to wait as long as we can to make those decisions, so that we have the latest information.”
Hawkeyes columnist Chad Leistikow has covered sports for 25 years with the Des Moines Register, USA TODAY and Iowa City Press-Citizen. Follow @ChadLeistikow on Twitter.