Monday was a sobering reminder about college football in Iowa: A lot has to go right for fans to be at games
Gut punch I:
The Story County Board of Health Monday publicly wonders if fans should attend Iowa State football games this fall. It's not binding, but what they say should carry weight in Story County.
Gut punch II:
Iowa athletics director Gary Barta announces that football ticket sales will be paused, while school officials figure out how many fans will be allowed into Kinnick Stadium. It was just a month or so ago, remember, that Barta said publicly he was prepping for capacity home-game crowds of 69,250.
Between Ames and Iowa City, the chatter even before lunch Monday regarding the state’s premier football programs is a startling reminder of what we all figured would happen anyway if, indeed, there would be 2020 football games.
It reinforces what was out there when administrators were first discussing how to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. After three months of planning this and strategizing that, we could be heading back to what we initially thought would happen.
Will fans even be allowed into games when the college football season starts in Iowa on Sept. 5 — the Cyclones hosting South Dakota at Jack Trice Stadium, and the Hawkeyes hosting Northern Iowa at Kinnick Stadium?
The eye-opener came from Monday night’s posted agenda of the Story Board of Health — the line that read:
“We implore Iowa State University to cancel spectators at sporting events this fall. Please only broadcast them. We cannot think of any way these events can be made even remotely safe with the masses of people from all over the state who routinely attend these events. Please for the health of our community.”
It’s one thing for Barta to back off his full stadium hope. It’s another for a board of health to “implore” (aka recommend) Iowa State football to be played without fans.
I’m with you if you’re wondering about the prospects of managing even a partial 2020 college football season, with or without fans in the stands.
It’s not so much the number of positive COVID-19 tests that are being reported at Clemson, Texas, Kansas State, LSU, Texas and other places that's causing the major concern right now. Positive tests during this voluntary practice stage are expected.
What happens, however, when the general student body starts returning? That’s when the concern could really spike.
How do you social distance college students on a college campus, in a college town?
Not sure you can.
Most schools don’t have athlete-specific housing. Athletes at most schools either live in dorms, or they share apartments or houses. The safety of the athletes concerns me, but we have to reminder they will come in contact with other students and staff on a daily basis too. We should be thinking about their welfare too.
That’s one of my concerns for a football season that’s supposed to start in earnest in about two months.
The guess is that it will start, but expect what happens after that to change weekly.
The coronavirus isn’t going away anytime soon.
Athletics departments, at least at Iowa State and Iowa, appear to have done a decent job with protocols in place for football players that are going through voluntary workouts. It looks that way, because of the recent positive test numbers for football players we’ve seen at the schools: Iowa 3, Iowa State 2, the last time the numbers were released.
That’s good, compared to places like Clemson, LSU, Texas and Kansas State, among others.
We should expect numbers here and elsewhere to increase too, especially when campus reopens to others. But enough to shut down the season? Don’t expect many teams nationally to play 12-game regular seasons, Iowa State and Iowa included.
What that all means? College administrators are working on it. There's no roadmap for this.
But there are two months before the season is supposed to start. Their focus has been on getting football practice started as safely as possible. With voluntary workouts underway, now they can turn attention to such things as:
- Will nonconference games be played?
- How many positive tests equals no game?
- Will fans attend games?
- How many games can reasonably be played?
You can add the Story County Board of Health to the same discussion that medical leaders throughout the nation have been having.
How many fans, if any, will be allowed into college football stadiums?
Iowa State columnist Randy Peterson has been writing for the Des Moines Register for parts of six decades. Reach him at email@example.com, 515-284-8132, and on Twitter at @RandyPete. No one covers the Cyclones like the Register. Subscribe today at DesMoinesRegister.com/Deal to make sure you never miss a moment.