A photo from 1918 has received a lot of attention during the COVID-19 pandemic and the discussion of whether to play college football this season.
The photo, from a game at Georgia Tech during the Spanish Flu pandemic, showed fans wearing masks in the grandstands.
It’s a scene Iowa athletics director Gary Barta could see playing out at Kinnick Stadium during this college football season.
“I doubt we’ll come back with the fedoras,” Barta said, smiling, during a video conference with media members on Thursday. “I could see people wearing masks around the stadium. Maybe everyone will wear a mask.”
Barta expects there will be a full season of college football for the Hawkeyes.
Whether Kinnick’s seats and suites will be filled is another matter.
“As of today, we are still planning to open Kinnick up, and have as many fans join us as want to join us,” Barta said. “That’s one of our scenarios. We haven’t closed that scenario down yet.
“We’re also having to plan for something less than that, whether it’s 75 percent or 50 percent or something less than 100 percent. We haven’t at all let go of 100 percent. We’re realistic, we’re not expecting that we’re going to have sellouts for every game, by any stretch. But as of right now, that’s still one of the modes we’re planning for.”
Iowa State AD Jamie Pollard announced earlier this week that he anticipated home games at Jack Trice Stadium would be at 50% capacity.
Kinnick Stadium has 69,250 seats. Barta said approximately 48,000 public, faculty and student season tickets were sold last season, and this year Iowa is at approximately 76 percent of that total.
Barta said the university’s priority point system would come into play if Iowa has to limit the number of fans in attendance to allow for social distancing, and that tickets would also be available for students.
“Anything lower than 48,000, we’ll have a plan,” Barta said. “But right now, that’s Plan B. Plan A is the ability to have everybody who’s purchased those tickets be able to come."
Barta said he understands if fans who purchased season tickets last season would not want to buy this year.
“There are going to be those,” he said. “It might be a financial concern, it might be a health concern. But what we’re going to do, if we have to interrupt the seating at all in 2020, we’ll go back to 2019 as a starting point, and everybody going into 2021 will have the opportunity to renew the same seats.”
He repeated that later in the conference, saying, “If those that take a year off for whatever reason — medical, financial — I feel very comfortable telling you today they will be able to get their seats back. The only scenario that I guess would throw that out is if 100 percent of the seats sold out this year to season-ticket holders. That’s just not going to happen. If people take a year off, and they come back in 2021 and followed all the other processes — paid their tickets on time, and their donations — they’ll be able to get their seats back. We’re going to take care of our season ticket holders.”
Barta said there will be plans to make the stadium as safe as possible for fans. He said the guidelines for the upcoming season will be determined by the CDC, state officials, and the Big Ten.
“We’re going to tell our fans what we’ve done, whether it’s entrances, entry ways, whether it’s concessions and how we manage those,” Barta said. “We’ll list all of the things we’ve done. And then we’ll let fans make that personal choice on whether they’re going to come.
“I know how badly I want football to occur this fall. I know how badly (head coach) Kirk (Ferentz) wants it. I know how badly our student-athletes want it. I know how fans want desperately to come back to Kinnick Stadium.”
Barta, though, knows the reality, and he wants fans to understand it as well.
“There will be some level of disruption this year,” he said. “We don’t know exactly what that will be. I don’t know what’s going to happen.”