I’ve heard the questions countless times in the past three months: Will there be college football in 2020 and will fans be allowed?
Illinois provided a hint Thursday: Definitely, maybe.
Barely a week after the school surveyed its fans, season-ticket holders received another email.
The subject line read: ACTION REQUIRED: 2020 Illinois Football Season Tickets.
This time, there weren’t 20 questions about preferences in the time of COVID-19.
Instead, the process was presented. Giving season-ticket holders their options for the upcoming season.
Providing the following responses:
— I’m in! I still want season tickets. Apply my previous payment as a credit for season tickets in a socially-distanced Memorial Stadium in 2020.
— I’m out! Due to health/safety concerns, I don’t feel comfortable attending in 2020.
If you choose not to return to Memorial Stadium in 2020, please select one of the following:
a. Apply my previous payment towards my 2021 Illinois Football Season Ticket order.
b. Apply my previous payments to a donation to the I FUND to support student-athlete scholarships
c. I would like to receive a full refund.
Season-ticket holders are asked to follow a link, where they can make their choice known.
Under current state guidelines, Illinois will be allowed to have 20 percent capacity at Memorial Stadium. The building seats 60,670, meaning 12,134 will be allowed in. Unless it changes.
The potential new setup will force some fans to be relocated to new seats. At least temporarily.
A friend of mine, who has had season tickets for about a decade, said he will change seats if asked. But won’t be happy about it.
Moving fans to new locations will be tricky. People get attached to their seats and the folks sitting near them. For 2020, they need to be flexible.
Wait and see
Illinois included a helpful FAQ at the end of the email. Such as:
Q: When will you make a decision about the coming season?
A: No official decision has been made about a timeline to finalize plans for the 2020 season. The Big Ten Conference and the University of Illinois are working together with the appropriate health officials on a number of scenarios. We thank you for your patience and will communicate additional information when it becomes official.
Q: What if the season is shortened or canceled?
A: In the event that games are canceled, season-ticket holders will have the opportunity to roll their money into their 2021 tickets, donate their funds to the I FUND, or receive a full refund.
Parking is also discussed. Donors will get the first choice of available spots, which are still to be determined.
Wisely, the school is allowing season-ticket holders who don’t renew for 2020 to return to their old seats in 2021.
Currently, Illinois is scheduled to play just six home games in ‘21. But depending on circumstances, a seventh could be added. Lovie Smith’s team is set to open against Nebraska in Dublin. The coronavirus could force that game from Ireland back to C-U. That decision will be made much later.
Keep an open mind
Back to the 2020 question. Personally, I am thrilled the school is taking this step. Because it means the games are still possible.
At this point, it is all we can ask for. Live sports are being played (PGA, NASCAR, soccer) with the NBA and MLB on the way next month.
Back in April, we weren’t sure what was going to happen. The return of sports, even in empty stadiums and arenas, means a move back to normalcy.
I have been covering games at Memorial Stadium since 1989. I had been to every one there for 20-plus years until health issues kept me away for part of 2012-13.
My new streak is at six years and counting.
If the games are played, I plan to be in attendance. Hope to see you there Sept. 4. At a distance, of course.