What might the coming season look like in Death Valley?
Our country has begun to attempt to move forward and open back up after many people (those not deemed essential) had given up months of their lives as our country came close to total shutdown battling the Corona Virus Pandemic.
There are so many questions at this point, and one that all football fans have been asking is will there be football this year? And if so, what can fans expect? Of course, there will be some that say this is unimportant but as things begin to reopen, people are looking for any kind of normalcy they can find in their lives. And yes that also includes Clemson football for a number of people.
I, like many others, have been asked if I think we will have college football this year? My answer has been and still remains yes. I do believe that we will have some resemblance of college football this fall. We’ve already seen major universities like Clemson, Alabama, Ole Miss, along with many others, announcing that they plan to have students return for classes this fall.
For many, that was the last big step that had to be taken. Others felt that the NCAA, University Presidents, and Conference leaders weren’t going to allow any type of season to take place without students being back on campus. Now, don’t miss understand, no one is expecting it to go back to what was normal.
There’s really no way around it. At this point most don’t see a normal Death Valley when the Clemson football team hits the field this year. Even if somehow the stadium is allowed to open up and run at full capacity it is expected that we will still see many safety precautions and added rules.
For example, the wearing of masks, temperature screenings, etc. There are many that already feel these safety measures and others will hinder and change the experience Clemson football fans have come to enjoy over the last century.
Even with all of the discussion to this point though, there isn’t one person out there right now that really knows yet what the future of football or life in general holds. Clemson fans still have a little over three months before the season is scheduled to start and there are still a number of questions that have to be answered still, as the team heads into the thick of the summer.
The NCAA and the ACC have stated that teams can start participating in voluntary workouts on June 8th. Clemson football players have been notified that they will be allowed to return to campus on June 1st so they can get ready for those voluntary workouts on June 8th. Keep in mind that there is still another week of waiting before it is truly known what that experience will even look like.
Regarding the season reports have indicated that Clemson Is considering three different scenarios (keeping in mind that things are still very fluid and are subject to change):
- Playing at limited capacity (similar to the plan that Iowa State released)
- Playing at full capacity just as normal
- Playing with no fans
Clemson Athletic Director Dan Radakovich has stated that the administration is currently considering a number of different options. There is also a good possibility that there could be changes to tailgating too. These rulings are still dependent on what decisions are made by the NCAA, the ACC, as well as state and local governmental bodies.
One model that could work is the one being put in place by Walt Disney World and Universal Studios in Orlando (both set to open a little later this summer). This plan states that both will have limited capacity, will enforce mask wearing, will try to spread guests out with virtual lines when possible, mobile ordering, and ticket reservations.
It is a safe bet that college football officials will be watching those two places very closely to see what works and what can be improved as they get ready for their season.
In the next scenario, the capacity would be limited to 50%, which would put Clemson’s Death Valley at approximately 41,000 fans. Last season nearly 60,000 season tickets were bought.
That means that season ticket holders would likely be placed in tiers (possibly with the fans who pay more getting first priority) and then right at around 20,000 season ticket holders would be refunded their money with an apology. Or Clemson would see a tiered situation where ticket holders are only given tickets for part of the season (season ticket holders would get tickets to 3 or 4 of the Tigers seven home games).
This is another scenario that is leaving out another important question in all of this. What about the Clemson students? If students are back on campus and Clemson University has said that’s the plan, you could be looking at the possibility of having over 20,000 students enrolled. Many of these students will be staying in dorms. The first question this raises will be is Clemson going to be able to tell students who can’t afford season tickets and depend on the student lottery that they won’t be allowed to attend games in Death Valley?
Another question it raises is will Clemson’s Athletic Department be willing to turn away season ticket holders to in order to allow a percentage of the student population to still go to the home games? This isn’t just a Clemson University issue though. These are issues athletic departments across the country are being forced to address with limited capacity and these new waters could get a lot harder to wade through. Especially if the limited capacity numbers end up being dropped from 50% to like 20 or 30%, as some are expecting.
Then you have the question dealing with the actual experience of game day in Tigertown. Will Clemson fans be allowed to tailgate? If so, you can expect that parking lots will have capacity limits just like Death Valley. Then you have to take into account that fans will be spread out across the stadium and there will surely be changes to things like concession stands and bathroom lines will have to be addressed also..
No one is really in a position to discuss what athletic events will look like in the fall of this year and, right now, there are definitely still more questions than answers. Most will agree that Clemson football fans going to games will have to deal with an experience like nothing they have experienced before as our country continues with this new norm.
Now, it’s not like Tigernation hasn’t had to deal with new norms before. Most Clemson fans can still remember the first game back in Death Valley after 9/11 and the new norm experienced. The extent of our “new norm” is really the only thing still up in the air and probably will be until the season gets a lot closer.
Most believe that even with all of the information coming out about the new rules due to Covid-19, most Tiger fans would still say that with whatever new stipulations are added they will just be happy to see Dabo Swinney and Clemson taking the field and working towards another ACC Championship, Playoff appearance, and chance at another national title.