Michigan State Athletic Director Bill Beekman earlier this month told reporters in a Zoom conference that they are planning on having fans in the stands for football this fall, but only at 20-30% capacity. Student-athletes from football, men’s and women’s basketball, and volleyball are all returning for voluntary workouts on campus and practice plans are being put in place for the possibility of college sports returning this fall. Getting athletes on the field is difficult as is, let alone having spectators coming back to pack in stadiums.
According to Beekman, students, season ticket holders and major donors will have the priority for those seats, which leaves approximately 15,000 to 22,500 seats to be filled. With students being among those who are getting priority, we asked students how they would feel returning to Spartan Stadium.
College football has a unique atmosphere that cannot be replicated with the fight songs and full-hearted chants on fall nights. Carson Hathaway, a journalism sophomore, said while the atmosphere is hard to replace, this would be better than nothing.
“More-so than other sports, college football has relied on its crazy crowds to produce energy and excitement towards the game,” Hathaway said. “Spartan Stadium being at 20-30% capacity would be an adjustment, but any football is better than no football.”
MSU announced that 75% of classes will be conducted online, or partially online in the fall due to COVID-19 concerns. Beekman told reporters that the athletic department is looking at a variety of solutions including touchless sinks in the bathrooms, contactless payment, and changing the parking and stadium entrances to ensure people can maintain a distance of six feet. Despite the changes, there are concerns about whether or not students would feel comfortable returning to the stands. Ryan Koschay, a mechanical engineering junior, explained what he felt would be necessary.
“I would look into blocking off seats in some way to ensure that social distancing is enforced,” Koschay said via email. “Step up security and patrolling so that people who aren’t following the rules can be removed from the stadium. My only real concern is how MSU will handle trying to get more students into the stadium and how the students will act with whatever rules are put into place.”
Despite all the concerns, many students are looking forward to a possible season this fall that may give students a return to normalcy after months of quarantine. Zoology sophomore Katie Gibbs hopes that this season can be one to remember.
“This will be a season for adjustment and a lot of what makes the games so fun to watch and attend will be limited due to the adjustments,” Gibbs said via email. “But I’m optimistic that students, players, and everyone else involved can make this unique season a memorable one.”
A respondent of a survey we conducted answered that they were concerned about fans entering the stadium, especially considering students could attend social functions like parties or tailgates prior to kickoff.
“I don’t know the precautions that other fans are taking in response to COVID, and how irresponsible they could possibly have been prior to the football game,” the respondent said. “There’s no way to hold people accountable for their actions, and die hard football fans would unfortunately probably still attend games even if they were having COVID symptoms.”
Maddie, an MSU student who asked to only use her first name, holds the same sentiment when it comes to what others may do outside of the stadium prior to coming.
“I am a hard, and immovable no on whether or not I am comfortable with football,” Maddie said. “And it's not just the football players that will have exposure, but there will be secondhand exposure to all of their professors, and the students within those classes, meaning that we may possibly have an outbreak on campus.”
Despite potential COVID-19 concerns, secondary education senior Brandilee Zens chose to dig deep, and remember that MSU is hosting the rivalry game against the University of Michigan.
“I'm so pumped,” Zens said. “It's my senior year and I want it to be the best year! I'm ready to go full out for these games no matter what the capacity is! Plus we host U of M and I'm ready to kick butt.”