Gov. Abbott says state’s FBS schools will likely play in half empty stadiums

College Sports

EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – Texas Governor Greg Abbott spent an hour on a Zoom conference call with FBS athletic directors on Friday to discuss the upcoming college football season, according to a report from USA Today’s Dan Wolken. Gov. Abbott made it evident that athletic departments shouldn’t expect their football stadiums to be more than half full in 2020.

Texas has been one of the more aggressive states when it comes to a plan to have fans in the stands at sporting events this year. Two weeks ago, Gov. Abbott gave the green light for fans to attend professional sporting events at 25% capacity. He has since upped that figure to 50%, giving hope that we could potentially see full stadiums this fall.

However, according to the USA Today report, Gov. Abbott’s message to athletic directors was clear: It would take a vaccine or a drastic drop in cases for stadium capacity to increase above 50%.

UTEP is set to open the season at home on Saturday, September 5 against Texas Tech. The Miners are also scheduled to host New Mexico State on Saturday, September 26. Despite low attendance number at UTEP football games over the last decade, both of those home games are expected to be a hot ticket.

“The Sun Bowl seats around 51,000, more or less,” said UTEP Director of Athletics Jim Senter. “Jorge Vasquez, who runs our special events, is already looking at social distancing and what it would look like inside the stadium. Attendance has been a little bit of a nemesis for us over the last several years, but we expect — when we have games like Texas Tech at home and New Mexico State at home — there’s going to be some pretty strong interest [in attending those games].”

While nothing is set in stone, the UTEP athletic department is trying to come up with a plan on ticket distribution if the maximum capacity is going to be 50% this season.

“If we have to put the social distancing plan in place, there’s going to be some folks who don’t get to go watch the games. We have to figure out what that looks like,” said Senter. “Just envision, just for a second, you have a son playing on our football team. You are one of the parents. All of a sudden, we aren’t going to let you come in because we’re going to let someone else come in? What about the opposing team? We’re not going to let their parents come in? There will probably have to be a pecking order associated with who gets to come to the stadium and why they get to come.”

Earlier this week, UTEP announced “Paydirt’s Pledge” — a promise to protect season ticket holders in the event seasons are modified or canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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