NFL plans indicate Georgia football could have capacity crowds this season
ATHENS — The NFL plans to have full capacity crowds at its games this season.
It’s a good sign for college football fans that those passionate Saturdays of yesteryear could return sooner than later.
“All of us in the NFL want to see every one of our fans back,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said on Tuesday, per ESPN.
“Football is simply not the same without fans, and we expect to have full stadiums in the upcoming season.”
Georgia football opens the season against Clemson on Sept. 4 in Charlotte, N.C., at Bank of America Stadium, home of the Carolina Panthers.
The Charlotte Observer reported earlier this month that North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper was loosening attendance restrictions beginning at 5 p.m. on Friday for sports venues across that state.
The Observer reports the new order will be in place through April 30, and it allows both indoor and outdoor venues to allow up to 50 percent capacity. Social distancing — six feet — is still required.
Previously, North Carolina allowed its bigger indoor arenas to hold up to 15 percent capacity.
Georgia, like every other collegiate football program last season, operated with limited capacity last season on account of the COVID-19 pandemic.
UGA athletic director Josh Brooks devised a seating plan to maximize the attendance (20,504) in Sanford Stadium.
Brooks said earlier this spring that Georgia will be prepared for full stadiums and capacity crowds if health experts and local government approves.
“We’re going to prepare to play the season as scheduled but recognizing the circumstances around the virus are going to guide us in our decision making,” Brooks said.
The Bulldogs managed just three home games last season with former AD and current Gator Bowl president Greg McGarity allowing UGA to travel to play Florida in Jacksonville despite the pandemic.
Another home game was lost when Vanderbilt canceled out on playing Georgia twice –while squeezing in its home game with Tennessee in between the originally scheduled date and the postponed date.
Georgia’s 2021 schedule reveals only six home games. There’s the neutral site game with Clemson in Charlotte, and the annual series with Georgia Tech in Atlanta.
Ultimately, the attendance issue in the SEC will come down to how experts suggest proceeding amid what has been a fluid COVID-19 situation.
“We rely on our doctors,” Sankey said, asked about the likelihood of packed-out SEC stadiums this fall. “I think there’s some light at the end of this right now. You see a really severe downward trend, generally, in numbers, but we’re still having people affected.”