Georgia shares details and expectations for home football games

How hard was it for UGA to figure out how to accommodate as many different fans as possible for home football games this season?

Well, Josh Brooks, Georgia’s senior deputy athletic director and the point person for that very task, said he found himself at one point utilizing the Pythagorean theorem of mathematics to determine the most optimum socially distanced seating configuration for 92,746-seat Sanford Stadium.

“This actually started way back in April and May,” Brooks said in a Zoom call with reporters Wednesday afternoon. “It was just me mapping out the stadium and looking at different models and using different theories. Do you just kill every other row or do you stagger? … I had to break out some old math and the Pythagorean Theory to calculate the seat density and width and factor in separation.”

The end result of all that computation was the ticket plan that Georgia unveiled Wednesday. That is, to seat no more than 23,000 fans in blocks of twos and fours that will be scattered throughout the facility’s entire expanse with the CDC-recommended distance of six feet in between each group.

Georgia informed season-ticket holders of that plan Wednesday morning. Donors will have until next Wednesday to let UGA know whether they will “opt in” or “opt out” for season tickets this year.

Included in the layout for the four home games scheduled to start Oct. 3 are sections for more than UGA students, faculty and staff, players’ families and visiting-team families.

“We looked at (seating) models for twos all the way to eights,” Brooks said. “But when you started thinking about a clean application system that would be simple and easy to operate for a ticket office and for a fair system out donors would understand, it was better to go with twos and fours.”

Brooks and Georgia Athletic Director Greg McGarity spent 36 minutes with reporters Wednesday explaining the plan and answering questions about the impending football season. McGarity was asked if he thought it was risky to consider playing football during a pandemic.

“We’ve got plenty of time, through the whole month of September to evaluate things,” McGarity said. “We just need to be able to pivot if necessary. But we’ve got a long time before we have our first home game. ... We feel like the way we’ve mapped out the stadium, we can maintain social distancing and still abide by the CDC guidelines to keep people as safe as possible. Again, people can opt out.”

Following are some other talking points UGA officials addressed:

Will there be tailgating?

McGarity: We’ll make that decision a little bit later. I know Alabama has already come out and said no tailgating — Arkansas has, as well — but we’re going to wait and see. We don’t have to make that decision right now but certainly as we near the first game, we’ll make those decisions about tailgating. We will just wait and make that decision a little bit later.”

Will there be a “Dawg Walk?”

McGarity: We don’t know yet. Social distancing is not really conducive to the Dawg Walk as we know it today. But it’s really the only way our team can get into the stadium now, so I’m sure that will be modified to some degree. We just haven’t zeroed in on those plans for when we start in October.

Will there be a student section?

Brooks: Yes. It was important to us early on that we maintain the student section, and footprint was not affected. We actually increased the students’ footprint slightly. … We’ve got a meeting set for today. We’ll start meeting with more student leadership to confirm the allocation plan and make sure they are comfortable with what we’re working through. We want to maintain that section for them, as well.

Will the Redcoat Band or cheerleaders be there?

McGarity: That has yet to be determined. I know the (SEC’s) Medical Advisory Task Force is providing some guidance to the athletic directors as we move forward. That has yet to be determined as far as how band and cheerleaders would function this year.

Will mask rules be enforced?

Brooks: According to the SEC information, you have to have them on when you enter or move about the stadium, but if you can maintain six feet of distancing within the stadium, you don’t have to wear the masks. … In the blocks we’ve laid out, you can maintain social-distancing.

Is there a point of go or no go?

McGarity: I don’t think there is a drop-dead date; we don’t have one designated. … I just think we look at the information daily and listen to what our other peer institutions are doing, as well as the Big 12 and the ACC, the AAC and everybody else that is playing, and so to keep tabs on everyone else. I just think it is too early to put a drop-dead date. I think it would have to be the week of the game at the latest, but we will just wait and see what develops on a daily basis.

What are the safety and sanitation measures inside the stadium?

Brooks: That’s going to be a big part of our operation this year. We’re going to have hand-sanitizer stations everywhere across the stadium. All of our staff will be really masked-up, all of the concession workers will have face-shields, masks, gloves. That is very important to think about all of those things, and follow all the CDC guidelines as you talk about concessions, restrooms, ingress, egress. That was what kind of gave us confidence to move forward with this plan knowing that with a crowd of this size, the operations at the concessions and restrooms will be easy. Ingress and egress will be easy. We can manage that. … We are going to be deep-cleaning. There are going to be a custodian assigned to every single restroom that will be constantly wiping down touch points. We are going to disinfect all of the restrooms the day of the game, all common areas. I feel really good about the plan.

What about the Florida game in Jacksonville?

McGarity: We will (distribute tickets) just like we do in a regular season down there. Obviously you have less tickets. But the distribution process will be consistent with our regular road games.

Any chance that attendance could be increased or decreased for home games?

McGarity: I just think we have to be ready to pivot on both sides. If we can go up, that’d be great. But we don’t anticipate that. But we could pivot the other way as well.

Why no road-game tickets?

McGarity: That was perhaps one of the quickest decisions we made as a group (in the SEC), to limit that. We wanted to basically make sure we could maximize the opportunities for our home fans because we knew we’d all be at a very low-capacity level. So, we wanted to make sure our fans, our students, our faculty and staff, would be maximized. And the ability to travel is going to be minimized for fans anyway.

Will schools be able to utilize artificial noise or anything to create atmosphere or any kind of a homefield advantage?

Brooks: I can tell you from my Louisiana-Monroe days that 18- to 20,000 can make some noise in a stadium and I think our fans are pretty lively and are going to make noise. … I’m sure conference regulations will be involved but that’s something we haven’t gotten through yet.

Any special considerations for Sky Suite holders?

McGarity: They will be running at half-capacity. They are separated from the general population. Suites have 16 seats, so they’ll be able to go with eight. But it will be a group that the suite-holder will invite and they’ll sort of be in charge of their own suite. But they’ll be at 50 percent capacity.