As excited as everyone is to return to Death Valley this fall, many are concerned about how football games could cause more COVID-19 outbreaks. On Aug. 7, the Southeastern Conference announced its medical protocol, which covers all fall sports. The SEC has left some decisions, such as tailgating, exact stadium capacity and team walks up to individual institutions.
The plan for Tiger Stadium’s capacity is still being determined. All areas will enforce social distancing, including concessions, restrooms, entrance lines, dining areas, suites and elevators. Tickets will be digitally scanned. Concessions will implement physically distanced lines and glass barriers between concession workers and fans. LSU has also prohibited “suite hopping” and will organize the furniture to promote social distancing. Face coverings will be required for
fans, stadium workers and personnel inside and around the stadium. The shuttles plan to maintain physical distancing while on the bus and disinfecting periodically. Face masks will also be required for drivers and passengers. Temperature checks and disinfecting mists might be considered.
Other SEC schools have stipulated that on-campus tailgating will not be permitted. Interim President Tom Galligan said LSU will probably discourage fans from doing so. As of Sept. 2, Tennessee is the only SEC school that will allow tailgating.
As for on the field, only players and essential staff will be allowed on game day, such as coaches, medical personnel, officials, law enforcement, limited news reporters and photographers. All SEC schools are also required to appoint a COVID-19 protocol oversight officer, who will be in charge of the public’s compliance with protocol. Bands will not be allowed to perform on the field before the game or at halftime. The opposing team’s band and spirit squads will not be able to attend.
The SEC stated football players and personnel must be tested weekly during preseason practice, and they must be tested twice weekly during the season.
The SEC’s medical task force also encourages teams to test athletes a third time during the week with an alternative testing method.
SEC commissioner Greg Sankey mentioned that stricter measures might be taken or the existing guidelines could be relaxed based on new developments. This includes whether campus-wide and community test rates are considered unsafe by local public health officials.
“Our health experts have guided us through each stage of preparation for the safe return of activity,” Sankey said. “Together with the medical staffs embedded within our athletics programs, we will continue to monitor developments around the virus and evolve our plan to meet the health needs of our student-athletes.”
Ticket distribution and seat allocation will be determined once stadium capacity has been finalized with season ticket holders and students being prioritized. Most SEC schools have limited fan attendance to 20-25% capacity. LSU, along with Florida, Kentucky and Vanderbilt should make that decision very soon.
For those at home, CBS has chosen three LSU football games to televise, including the season opener against Mississippi State scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 26.