Though nothing has been finalized on the matter, University of Kansas Athletic Director Jeff Long expects there to be fans in David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium when the Jayhawks open their 2020 season on Sept. 12.
“That’s just my thought at this point,” Long said during a video conference with reporters on Wednesday night. “It has to be approved by the county.”
Just how many tickets would be available in the 47,000-seat capacity venue remains up in the air, too, Long said. But he said the COVID-19 pandemic definitely won’t allow KU to fill its stadium completely, and he expects the revised capacity will land at 50% or less.
Long said the final number of seats available will be “largely based on” what medical officials in Douglas County endorse after KU’s athletic department presents its plan to a university COVID-19 strategy team.
Without getting into the specifics involved with how KU will determine which fans have access to tickets, Long said it will be tied to Williams Education Fund donations. He said employees from the fund and ticket office have been working behind the scenes to map out different capacities.
“Once we know from the county medical group what we’re allowed to do, we’ll start informing our season ticket holders and donors about their seats and where they’ll be located,” Long said.
Although KU hasn’t yet announced the football team’s season-opening opponent, Long said the game will be played a month from now, on Sept. 12. It will not be against Southern Illinois, the team KU was scheduled to face on Aug. 29.
Long said KU has not presented its football players with any liability waivers tied to competing during the pandemic.
The NCAA banned the use of COVID-19 liability waivers earlier this summer, though some programs tried to implement them before that when players returned to campus for workouts.
“We protected ourselves by having the highest-quality medical care possible for our student-athletes,” Long said.
It's not just football that will play an abridged schedule this year: The Big 12 decided while moving forward with fall sports that it would also limit its volleyball and soccer teams to conference games exclusively.
“The health and safety issues we’re discussing with football all flowed down to soccer and volleyball,” Long said, adding that medical consultants grouped those sports with football in that there is a higher probability for COVID-19 to spread by contact.
Long said KU’s other fall sport, cross country, is considered a lesser risk, and the Big 12 is still working through some decisions before coming up with a final strategy for how its cross country teams will compete.