Thursday, Governor Tate Reeves announced that college football stadiums in Mississippi will be limited to 25% to begin the 2020 season, which is exactly what Ole Miss Athletic Director Keith Carter expected.
Under the current order, approximately 16,000 fans will be able to enter Ole Miss’ Vaught-Hemingway Stadium when the Rebels take on Florida on September 26th. While they were able to begin planning around hypotheticals, the issuing of the order allows for Carter and other ADs across the state to finalize their plans to determine how tickets will be issued.
“Our goal, and obviously with 25% it’s hard to make everyone happy, but we want to try to get as many different people in the stadium as we can,” Carter said. “We know we have a lot of fans and folks that have been around for a long time supporting Ole Miss and we want to put a plan together where we can hopefully help as many people as possible.”
Carter stated that Ole Miss Athletics’ plan, to be announced next week, will likely include individual game options with priority levels playing a part in availability. The governor’s order does ban tailgating, meaning that the Grove will be hauntingly empty on Saturdays this fall.
The Rebels, along with every other program, continue to grapple with the financial impact of the pandemic. Carter explained that the department based its initial budget estimates on the idea of 50% capacity and has now had to make additional cuts and pull from its reserves.
“The 25% for us is manageable. I mean, it’s going to be really, really hard, but it’s certainly a lot better than no fans and no football,” he said.
Speaking of football, the countdown to kickoff in the SEC is now at 36 days. While nothing is certain when it comes to COVID-19, Carter is confident in their ability to begin the 2020 season despite the “hour by hour” approach he continues to take.
“I think as long as we don’t have a major outbreak here in Oxford, or in Tuscaloosa, or in Starkville, that would cause our universities to shut down, I think we can get there. I feel really confident that our teams and our programs are doing the right things. If we can just keep that bubble, that umbrella going here over the next few weeks, I think we can get to September 26th.”
Earlier this week, the university announced that 13 student-athletes (11 on one unidentified team) & one employee had tested positive for the virus, but SportsTalk Mississippi’s Richard Cross reported that the majority of the positive cases were not football-related. Carter did say that double-digit cases on the football team or a cluster of cases within a specific position group would be a cause for concern.
In a related story, Vanderbilt confirmed that an unspecified number of football players have tested positive for the virus following their beginning of fall camp.
With additional questions surrounding Myocarditis, a heart condition identified as a possible lingering effect of COVID-19, the SEC has specified the cardiac evaluation requirements in its initial report and confirmed the need for third weekly test prior to competition. According to a news release from the conference, its “initial medical response plan for confirmed infected individuals called for a cardiac evaluation for those individuals returning to activity following isolation. The SEC’s Return to Activity and Medical Guidance Task Force has now specified the cardiac evaluation would mandate a troponin level, electrocardiogram, echocardiogram and a medical evaluation by a physician.”
Last week, the SEC dropped it’s complete conference-only, 10-game schedule, and Carter says that the college football season is slowly but surely coming into focus.
“Last week, you get the schedule. This week, you get the capacity and things are starting to come together.”