ATHENS — Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity shared insight into just how different the Bulldogs’ home games will look and sound amid reduced attendance models triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic.
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McGarity, speaking on a Zoom call with reporters on Wednesday, shared no final decisions have been made on campus tailgating, the Dawg Walk, or cheerleader and band attendance.
“We’re not even out of August yet, so we’ve got plenty of time, the whole month of September to evaluate,” McGarity said, hours after Georgia released an attendance plan that stipulates 20 to 25 percent attendance at Sanford Stadium.
“It’s a long, long time before we have our first home game.”
Georgia opens the season on Sept. 26 at Arkansas, where McGarity said tailgating will be prohibited.
The Bulldogs first home game, however, isn’t until Oct. 3 against Auburn.
How the players enter the stadium remains to be determined, but McGarity hinted any form of a DawgWalk would have to be significantly modified.
“To practice social distancing, that’s not really conducive to the Dawg Walk, as we know it today,” McGarity said. “It’s really the only way our team can get into the stadium now, so I’m sure that will be modified in some degree. We just haven’t zeroed in on those plans for when we start in October.”
McGarity said Georgia has to be ready to pivot quickly on several stadium issues should CDC guidelines or legislation change.
COVID-19 conditions can and have shifted quickly, with local, state and federal legislation having proven just as fluid.
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Georgia senior deputy athletic director Josh Brooks used several different models to maximize Sanford Stadium attendance while still meeting SEC protocol and safety guidelines.
“I broke out the pythagorean theorem and calculated the seat density and width, and actually you have to factor in the pitch as to talk about difference in creating separation,” Brooks explained, “because you’ve got an 11-inch pitch gapped between each seat, it allows you to factor in separation.
“The key was painting the six foot block of separation between each block(of seats).”
McGarity provided added clarity to the information the school released earlier in the day on the reduced seating plan, including:
• Student ticket reduction will be uniform with the stadium plan, leaving more than 3,000 tickets available out of the original 16,000 allotment.
• Fans must wear masks to enter and move around Sanford Stadium, but once seated and safely social distanced, they will not be required to wear them.
• Skyboxes will operate at 50 percent capacity.
• Georgia’s ticket allotment for the Florida game (Nov. 7) will be around 9,000, with the school following the Jacksonville Jaguars stadium reduction plan (currently 25 percent).
• Georgia and SEC schools is investigating options to create “more atmosphere” amid the reduced seating, including artificial noise.
• The Georgia athletic budget adjustments will be discussed at the Sept. 11 board meeting.
• Several models for attendance were explored, with up to 50 percent capacity considered.
• There is no “drop dead date” to determine the status of the Sept. 26 opening game.
• UGA will have masks available to hand out at the gates should fans forget or lose theirs.
• Fans will need to display a parking pass and ticket (s) to the game to park in athletic controlled lots on game day.
• The SEC athletic directors’ vote not to allow visiting fans to purchase tickets was unanimous.
• The stadium plan is flexible, dependent upon COVID-19 statistics and local, state and federal guidelines.
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