The Southeastern Conference recently released health and safety guidelines for the slightly postponed football season which gives schools the flexibility to determine the number of fans who are allowed to attend football games. 

According to the new SEC guidelines, “Institutions shall determine the number of guests permitted to attend in accordance with applicable state and local guidelines, policies and/or regulations. In the absence of state and/or local guidelines, policies and/or regulations, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations on physical distancing should be applied.”

Essentially, Ole Miss or Mississippi State could keep the stadium closed to fans. Or they could have limited attendance. At 25 percent capacity, between 15,000-18,000 could attend football games at each school. That naturally doubles if capacity is increased to 50 percent.  

Also of interest to fans, the schools will determine what is allowable in the Junction and the Grove. According to the SEC, “Institutions shall determine whether tailgating or other large gatherings of guests (e.g., alumni events, university recruiting events, etc.) are permitted on property owned and/or controlled by the institution in accordance with applicable state and local guidelines, policies and/or regulations.”

Would tents need to be six feet apart? Or does the fact that you are likely to be six feet apart from guests of the tent right next to you count? Or do we just close tailgating? Schools will also have to determine team walks, which are not generally prone to social distancing and probably lose much of their lore with fans spaced apart. 

Fans won’t have to wear a mask while sitting in 100-degree heat, assuming recommended physical distancing, but they will need it when entering, exiting, or moving throughout the stadium. Workers and athletic staff will have to wear masks at all times. 

For now, Ole Miss, State, and the twelve other members of the SEC have decisions to make with major implications for the school’s revenue, the local economy, and the potential health and wellbeing of students and fans.