OPINION: How should K-State Athletics handle its football season?

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The K-State student section holds a flag with the powercat on it that says Family. K-State faced off against West Virginia in Bill Snyder Family Stadium on Nov. 16, 2019. The Mountaineers defeated the Wildcats 20-24. (Dylan Connell | Collegian Media Group)

The middle of March presented sports fans across the country with some of the worst news imaginable — in an indefinite hiatus to all athletic competitions.

Now, counties across the nation are starting to loosen movement restrictions, including Riley County, and college officials are beginning to formulate plans for the coming semester and their athletic programs.

Riley County is currently operating under a relaxed social distancing protocol, but this may change depending on recommendations from local health officials, as well as how the virus progresses between now and August.

Though the university has announced a tentative plan for the fall, K-State Athletics has yet to unveil their action steps to return to football with fans. Here are my thoughts on the situation.

Tailgating:

Thousands of people participate in tailgating activities before every game, but how does K-State protect all of its tailgaters? The answer is simple — they don’t. Most game day tailgates take place in the vicinity of Bill Snyder Family Stadium, including the parking lot of the Recreation Center and nearby grassy areas.

Tailgating is a pregame ritual for most Wildcat fans, but it would be impossible to enforce social distancing and even more difficult to get people to wear masks. Unless the situation changes drastically and COVID-19 just disappears — something unlikely to happen — tailgating just can’t happen.

Spectator entrances:

Similar to the clear-bag policy, K-State Athletics should utilize a mask policy, making it mandatory for fans to wear a mask when entering the stadium. Without a face covering, spectators should not be permitted into the stadium.

Additionally, it would be pertinent to check temperatures as people enter to weed out possible infections and spread.

Fan attendance:

In a perfect world, all 50,000 people who normally fit into the stadium would be able to pile in for the first game against Buffalo on Sept. 5. The only problem is that, without an effective therapeutic treatment or vaccine, the coronavirus threat still looms. Large gatherings of any kind are still discouraged because they are breeding crowds for new infections and disease clusters.

The best move in my mind would be to limit attendance to season ticket holders with the only exception being players, staff, officials and media crews. Other people that should be allowed in the stadium are the Classy Cats, cheerleaders, the Pride of Wildcat Land Marching Band and players’ family members.

Although the K-State student body brings an extra level of intimidation for visiting teams, there just isn’t a scenario where everyone who wants to can attend games.

Having a system such as this one would most likely send the athletic department into a financial frenzy, but looking at the big picture, I would rather keep safety as the top priority.

Someday, sports at all levels can go back to normal, but now just isn’t the time.

Andrew Lind is the sports editor of the Collegian and a sophomore in mass communications. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and the persons interviewed and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Collegian. Please send comments to opinion@kstatecollegian.com.

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