Sep 3, 2016; Ames, IA, USA; Iowa State athletic director Jamie Pollard watches the Cyclones pregame warmups for their game against the Northern Iowa Panthers at Jack Trice Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports
Jamie Pollard added further clarity on Wednesday to Iowa State’s current plan to have as many as 30,000 fans in the stands at Jack Trice Stadium this fall.
Speaking on the 106.3 FM KXNO Sports Fanatics program, which is co-hosted by Cyclone Fanatic publisher Chris Williams, Iowa State’s athletic director outlined the thinking behind his letter to fans released on Tuesday.
“A couple things that we wanted to get out there was just this whole notion of you can give absolute protection from this,” Pollard said. “There’s no way to absolutely mitigate. If you want absolute mitigated protection, then there’s no football games. You just can’t. Not with the numbers you’re talking about. You look and go, well, six feet apart, and that’s where I was a couple weeks ago. Let’s do an analysis of the stadium. Well, when you do that, there’s so few seats available that it’s not even reasonable to think you could do it. Let alone police it. We wanted to get that message out there that says, in the end, we’ll have a list of mitigation measures we’ll take.”
“Fans will have to decide and it will have to be a very individual decision of, ‘What’s my comfort level? Am I okay with that or am I not?’ We’re not going to get into a situation where we say we’re going to do some mitigation that we have no way possible to reasonably enforce that mitigation because all you do there is cause bad customer service because you’ll have somebody taking photos of somebody not doing this or not doing that or complaining to you. We’re not going to go down that path. Our mitigations will be what we think are reasonable based on wherever we are at that point in time. There certainly will be areas of the stadium that are more restrictive, especially like a suite or the elevator or the press box where things are enclosed. That’s vastly different than what it’s like when you’re sitting out in the stadium. People will have to decide. If you’re a press member and you’re not going to wear a face mask, you won’t be in the press box. If you’re a fan that demands everybody in the stadium has to be wearing a face mask then you’re probably not going to feel comfortable coming in the stadium because there’s no way we’ll be able to enforce that. Those are just the realities we wanted to get out there.”
According to Pollard, the response to the letter was immediate and “huge” as the athletic department sold 2,700 season ticket packages and received $700,000 in Cyclone Club donations on Tuesday afternoon alone. He did not have updated figures for Wednesday prior to the interview, but the stated number sold on Tuesday would bring the publicly known number of season tickets sold to just short of 25,000.
Roughly 3,000 of those 25,000 season tickets sold will be going to Iowa State students, who will have their section’s capacity reduced from the standard 7,800 to 4,800 for 2020.
“So, when we put that letter out, there was about 1,500 to 1,600 tickets to be sold to the students. We held back tickets for the freshman incoming class for a lottery based on the same percentage we do when we sell 7,800 tickets,” Pollard said. “So, we did set the number of students a little more than 50 percent. We did that for two reasons. We think the students are a vital part of the atmosphere in Jack Trice Stadium and, quite frankly, would like to have a greater percentage of students in the stadium. Secondly, we know from just statistical data that they don’t all come to every game, so we know that we can sell more than what will actually be there to keep you at a number. We know that from previous years of tracking basketball and football. The students are well taken care of in this process.”
One of the biggest questions coming out of Tuesday’s announcement was how the attendance restrictions would impact the school’s tailgating procedures.
Pollard said his administration has not started to dive too deeply into what happens outside the stadium yet at this point, but fans can expect some changes to the tailgating atmosphere in Ames.
“We recognize that tailgating is a huge part of what we do. First and foremost, if you only have half the people who bought tickets, in theory, you’re only going to have half the people with parking passes. So, many of those parking lots, in theory, where there were two cars, there would not be one car. So, in some ways, just the physical cars will social distance themselves,” Pollard said. “Number two is, and we haven’t talked about this so this is probably more spitballing things at this point in time, is we probably will limit the amount of hours you can tailgate. We, historically, have been pretty wide open in that space, because it is a big part of our culture and quite frankly is why our attendance has been so strong. Tailgating is a huge part of going to an Iowa State game. Maybe the better thing to do is not have the tailgate lots open as long as we have in the past just to send a message that we need to be a little more responsible in those areas.”
Lastly, when it came to Iowa State-specific topics, Pollard gave details on how this plan could impact the athletic department in comparison to not having a football season, which Pollard compared to “the ice age” in March.
He also added that it would not surprise him to see changes to Iowa State’s current plan and, potentially, more than 50 percent of fans allowed in Jack Trice Stadium this fall.
“It’s a bad winter month. You’ve got to start somewhere. Personally, I’m going to guess that it will end up being more than 50 percent, but I don’t know that and nobody knows that. Anybody who says they know that is just blowing a lot of air around,” Pollard said. “My gut tells me it probably will be more than 50 percent. But, at least, what we looked at is, okay, we already know that 22,000 people have renewed their season tickets and made their donations knowing there was COVID, so those people felt comfortable already. That’s what made us go, okay, let’s see where that number gets us to. That will help us drive some other decisions we have to make throughout the year if we’re going to not get all the revenue that we normally would get.”
*** Here was Pollard’s answer to how he has seen schools work together during this process…
“Well, I can start at the micro-level of within the Big 12, it’s been incredible how we’ve worked completely together and decided to make decisions together. The presidents announcing last Friday that football will be June 15 and the fall sports will be July 1 at the earliest and basketball and the other sports, July 15, that was great work of all 10 of those schools being all together. You quickly saw that was what all the (Power 5 leagues) basically did. I think that clearly the (Power 5) conferences have been more in lockstep on this than probably ever before.”
“Quite frankly, I’ve watched and listened to individual coaches within those (Power 5 leagues) spout off with what they’re going to do or what they’re not going to do or they’re going to do this and what we’ve just said is, you know, I said this a long time ago in this process, there’s going to be some people that thought they were in charge and they’re going to find out they’re not in charge. There are some people that are in charge that didn’t know they were in charge. I think that’s how it’s played out. There’s been some people who have spoken out saying they were going to do this or do that then you find out that’s not what they’re doing. I think it’s because the presidents and the commissioners and the athletic directors have spent a lot of time staying on top of this and controlling it.”