If schools can’t control crowds, close the stadiums

By Carson Lewis | Assistant Digital Managing Editor

Last Wednesday, Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida lifted restrictions on stadium attendances across the state. This means that if any of the state’s NCAA or NFL football organizers decide on opening up, they can fill their stands to maximum capacity. This is incredibly dangerous during a national pandemic that has not shown signs of ending anytime soon. However, conversations of crowds are a little more nuanced than that.

The University of Florida played the Aggies this past weekend, losing in a 41-38 shootout at Kyle Field. Dan Mullen, head coach of the Gators, said after the loss, “I know our governor passed that rule so certainly, hopefully the UF administration decides to let us pack the Swamp against LSU — 100% — because that crowd was certainly a factor in the game. I certainly hope our administration follows the governor. The governor has passed a rule that we’re allowed to pack the Swamp and have 90,000 in the Swamp to give us the home-field advantage Texas A&M had today.”

Several pictures were released from the College Station crowd, and it was clear that there was something to be said about Mullen’s assertions. Aggie supporters stood close and unmasked in many photos uploaded to social media. This should be worrying for anyone. Even if younger fans may have a higher survival rate than people who are older, care must be taken for the local community in these cases. If college football — the sport so many of us love — is to continue, we must be better as fans at practicing a new social etiquette. Universities also must be better at enforcing guidelines.

With President Trump’s recent struggle with the COVID-19 virus, worry has been spreading about super-spreader events, defined by USA Today as “a gathering that results in a much larger rate of transmission than the norm.” Risk factors such as inside venues, lack of good ventilation, talking or singing without facial coverings, and others can increase the likelihood of transmission. While college football largely remains an outdoor sport, the excitement and shouts of football faithful could prove dangerous if even a few fans had the coronavirus.

While many football programs and organizations have set in place good regulations such as keeping stadium attendance in check and encouraging social distancing, things can easily become uncontrolled. Two examples would be the football games at Texas A&M and SMU, where students had to be ejected as they refused to wear masks or socially distance.

These regulations, if put in place, must be adhered to. Texas A&M, Florida and any program in college or professional sports should do the same as SMU, and lay down the hammer on misbehaving fans. It’s a miracle we have college football this year, and we should all do our best to make sure that our communities can be safe during this time.