Clemson Football: What a social distanced Death Valley could look like

Clemson football fans
Clemson football fans /

Clemson football home games will be different this year

There’s no way around it: We likely won’t see a normal Death Valley when the Clemson football team takes the field later this year.

Even if somehow the stadium is allowed to operate at full capacity- which most analysts think is next to impossible at this point- there will still be several safety precautions (perhaps wearing a mask, temperature screenings and the like) that won’t make for the same experience Clemson football fans have come to know over the course of the last century.

That being said, no one truly knows yet what the future holds. There is still a little more than three months before the season is scheduled to start and there are many questions still up-in-the-air as we head into the thick of the summer.

Clemson football players are allowed to return to campus on June 1st to begin voluntary workouts on June 8th, but there will be some more waiting before we truly know what the experience will look like.

What could these changes look like for Clemson football fans?

The million dollar question as we head into the offseason is just how these changes- whatever they may be- will affect Clemson football fans.

Zach Lentz with Sports Illustrated reported that Clemson is currently considering three scenarios– of course things are subject to change:

  • Playing at limited capacity (similar to Iowa State’s released plan)
  • Playing at full capacity just as normal
  • Playing with no fans

Clemson Athletic Director Dan Radakovich told the media that the administration is currently considering many different options. There could be modifications to tailgating, capacity limits and much more depending on what decisions are made by the NCAA and ACC, as well as state and local governmental bodies.

One model that may work for crowds is what we’re seeing with Walt Disney World and Universal Studios in Orlando, which are both set open a little later this summer. Both will have limited capacity, will enforce mask-wearing and will attempt to spread guests out with virtual lines when possible, mobile ordering and ticket reservations.

I would imagine that both College Football teams and NFL franchises watch those two places very closely to see what works and what can be improved upon as they prepare for their season.

So, full speculation: Let’s say the Iowa State plan- or something close to it- is what happens. For those that don’t know, Iowa State is planning to limit capacity to around 30,000 or 50 percent capacity. They don’t expect to have single-game tickets available because of the amount of season tickets being purchased.

In that scenario, the capacity would be limited to 50 percent (which would put Death Valley at around 41,000 give or take). In 2019, nearly 60,000 season tickets were bought for the season.

That would mean that season ticket holders would likely be placed in tiers (perhaps those who pay more get first priority) and we would either have a situation where right at about 20,000 season ticket holders would be refunded their money and apologized to, or we would see a tiered situation where ticket holders are only given tickets to a part of the season (they get tickets to 3-4 of the seven home games).

That scenario also leaves out another important aspect in all of this: The students.

If students are back on campus- and Clemson University has said that’s the plan- you could have potentially more than 20,000 students enrolled. Many will be staying in dorms. Is Clemson prepared to tell students who can’t afford season tickets that they won’t be welcomed? Is the Athletic Department willing to turn away season ticket holders to allow a percentage of the student population to still attend the game? These are questions Athletic Departments across the country will have to address with limited capacity and it could get even trickier if that capacity limit is dropped to 20-30 percent, as many analysts have predicted.

And then there’s the actual game day experience.

Will there be tailgating? If there is, I would imagine that parking lots have capacity limits, as well. In addition, fans will be spread out across the stadium and there will likely be changes to how things like concession stands and bathroom lines are addressed, as well.

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No one is qualified to speak on what things will look like in September, October or November of this year, but there are certainly many questions. It seems almost undeniable at this point that Clemson football fans attending games will have a different experience than what we’ve come to know as normal, but the extent is still up-in-the-air and likely will be for some time.