By Will Chamblee | Sports Writer, Video by Nate Smith | Broadcast Reporter
With the announcement that Baylor will indeed have a football season this year, the first question on many student’s minds was if they would be able to attend games.
“We will be able to allocate about 2,500 student tickets per game,” Rhodes said.
Baylor will utilize 25 percent of the student section seating in McLane Stadium along with 25 percent of the seating in the BERM section to seat the students.
Rhodes said allowing students to attend games was a priority for the athletic department as they acknowledged the impact that the students can have on the game.
“I remember back to last season and our students were tremendous. They came out in full force and provided such great energy,” Rhodes said. “Twenty-five hundred students in McLane Stadium can make a lot of noise and we will expect them to do that.”
Rhodes was quick to mention that the number of student tickets could rise if social distancing in McLane proves to be successful.
“You never know, as the season continues, we could grow that [number of student tickets] to a higher percentage,” Rhodes said.
However, student’s ability to attend any football games, and Baylor’s ability to have football at all, greatly depends on how well Baylor can stop the spread of the virus on campus.
“There are two hurdles in front of us,” Rhodes said. “A big piece of it is the return of the student body to campus and the integration of student-athletes within the general student body and how that impacts the positivity rate of COVID.”
Baylor Athletics announced on Aug. 12 that McLane Stadium would begin the season with 25 percent capacity, with “priority single-game tickets” being sold to season ticket holders first.
Baylor said that McLane Stadium has been “re-manifested to support social distancing”, which will allow both season-ticket holders and students to attend home football games this season.
While the fan experience will be different due to social distancing policies in McLane, it is still integral that Baylor has fans in the stadium, even if it is just 25 percent of the stadium’s capacity, as it generates revenue for the athletic department.
Dr. Kirk Wakefield, executive director of Baylor’s S3 program, detailed how important the revenue was for the athletic department.
“Football revenue typically is about three-quarters of the athletic budget,” Wakefield said. “A large percentage of that is ticket sales.”
Football revenue is essential to funding many of Baylor’s other collegiate sports that don’t turn a profit annually. And while Baylor will lose out on 75 percent of tickets for each home game this season, Wakefield says that Baylor Athletics will be okay as long as they have games.
“We [Baylor] get broadcast revenue tied to our conference deals,” Wakefield said. “If we don’t play any games I can’t imagine we’re getting that money from the broadcast revenue. In college sports you have pretty heavy reliance on that shared conference income that comes primarily from broadcast.”
Baylor Athletics also released a statement on Tuesday announcing that tailgating would not be allowed outside of McLane Stadium in an attempt to further protect the student-athletes and coaches.
“This was a difficult decision to make as we continue to keep the safety and health of the Baylor Family as our top priority,” Rhodes said in the statement. “We do not take this decision lightly as the tailgating experience at Baylor is unlike any other.”
As things stand, Baylor students and fans will be able to see the Bears play in person on Sept. 12 at McLane Stadium in their season opener against Louisiana Tech.