Football is back in Clemson this week, sort of


by - Senior Writer -
Radakovich is hopeful scenes like this one play out this season.
Radakovich is hopeful scenes like this one play out this season.

Each time the Clemson football team returns to a first practice, whether it’s in August or the spring, the first song that’s played as the players warm up is The Boys Are Back in Town.

There won’t be any songs played over the loudspeakers this week, but the arrival back on campus of the student-athletes is a cause for celebration. Maybe, just maybe, we will have football after all.

Athletic Director Dan Radakovich wrote a letter this week, looking ahead to what he hopes is the 2020 football season.

“We’ve focused a lot of energy on looking ahead to the 2020-21 academic and athletic year, and while we don’t have all of the answers yet, some pieces are beginning to come into focus,” Radakovich wrote. “One thing I can say definitively is how thankful I am to our fans and members of IPTAY. As it relates to football in the fall, we remain optimistic about the ability to play our scheduled games. Our season ticket request deadline passed on May 15, and we are tracking ahead of last year’s record total. Our student interest was also equally encouraging. In all, donors and students have requested nearly 60,000 season tickets.

“In conjunction with IPTAY, we announced a ticket payment plan with no payments for 90 days, as well as a refund policy on tickets, if the season is modified or games are canceled.”

As the nation continues to deal with Covid-19, the university is working to make sure all involved with the athletic programs have safe environments. That might mean a less-than-full Death Valley when the games begin.

“Our continued focus is on the safety of our student-athletes, coaches, staff and fans. To that end, we have many working groups planning for a return to football this fall under varying scenarios, including a limited capacity within Memorial Stadium,” Radakovich said. “We are modeling how our stadium would handle a limited capacity situation, relating to priority, potential refunds and associated issues.

“Other modifications include the full transition to mobile ticket delivery, as well as potential adaptations to tailgating, parking and concessions operations.”

The university hopes to return to normal by instituting a series of phased returns.

“As we look ahead, I want to make you aware of how we’ve interfaced with campus and those resulting COVID-19 operational principles,” Radakovich said. “Four of our staff members have been in daily meetings with the Emergency Operations Center, and have met with each coaching staff and department head individually to help understand the return to operations framework. The three-phased return plan is in lockstep with President Clements’ messaging from last week, and the pace is set by the University and DHEC.

“Phase I outlines a limited return to on-campus activities. For many of us in athletics, this phase looks similar to the present. It includes staff members directly responsible for the health and well-being of student-athletes, as well as those preparing facilities for Phase II.

“For our student-athletes, the NCAA last week approved voluntary activity to resume June 1. First, our football, men’s basketball and women’s basketball student-athletes will return and begin voluntary activity and medical screening starting June 8. They’ll adhere to guidelines brought together by our Sports Medicine team. This includes social distancing, face coverings, and limited meeting groups for voluntary activity. We’ll begin conversations this week with our other sports on a potential return to campus for voluntary activity.

“Phase II involves an expanded return to on-campus operations. During this phase, coaching staffs are able to assimilate back, adhering to guidelines on face coverings, social distance, and other safety measures. During this phase, we’ll also welcome back more of our student-athletes for voluntary activity.

“Phase III begins the future state of our operational status. At this point, operations are able to resume in full. This stage includes continued encouragement of social distancing, face coverings, and other non-pharmaceutical interventions – this is what the University terms as “future state.” Students can resume some classes in person, and the phase allows for a possibility for a return to intercollegiate competition. Our staff has spent countless hours working through a safe return for our student-athletes, staff, and looking ahead to our fall athletic calendar. When June 8 comes, we’ll begin seeing our student-athletes repopulating our facilities and preparing for fall.”

For those wanting to know how many fans – and which fans – will be able to watch the games, those decisions will be made in the future.

“We’ve looked at many scenarios so far, but have chosen to refrain from speculating about numbers, capacities, and policies, as we feel we need more information to make such impactful decisions. We must continue to review and then do what’s best for Clemson,” Radakovich said.

“It’s no secret that a modified fall would be less than ideal, but Clemson is prepared to handle many of the scenarios ahead of us, in large part due to the generosity of our donors and partners. As we look to the fall, we know there is still uncertainty – what we know today may be different tomorrow. I encourage you to continue talking to us, contacting us, and reaching out. We’re spending all of our energy working for a safe return.”

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