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Plenty of changes on the way for football this upcoming season

Kyle Riviere
kriviere@weeklycitizen.com
Gonzales Weekly Citizen

With each passing week, it becomes more and more evident that there will be football in 2020-21. But it's also painstakingly clear that it'll be a football season unlike anything we've ever seen.

The Coronavirus pandemic has affected almost everything imaginable in this country, and many things will be forever changed.

Those changes will certainly be felt for football.

The one advantage the sport has is its timing. The opening week of Louisiana high-school football is set for Sept. 3-5. The first full weekend of college football will kick off on Sept. 5, and the NFL won't begin their regular season until Sept. 10.

This will give leaders of the LHSAA, the NCAA and the NFL time to access the situation and then make decisions based on the status of the COVID-19 outbreak in the country.

But there has already been plenty of discussion on different scenarios that could take place once football season arrives.

LHSAA Executive Director Eddie Bonine has stated publicly that the high-school football season is still on track to begin on time. Although, he has mentioned the possibility of playing games with no fans, or a limited number of fans depending on how the virus progresses in the state.

Spring football was cancelled this season. Usually, teams would be able to get together for summer weightlifting, camps and other team functions by May 17, but that date was pushed back until June 8 because of the virus.

Even when teams do get together, there will be limits on how many players can be together at one time, and there will be social distancing.

As of now, teams will still be able to officially begin full-contact fall practice at the start of August.

The college football season is much more complicated. It spans all 50 states, and each state is unique when it comes to the affect of COVID-19 and the restrictions imposed by the respective governor.

As for LSU, Athletic Director Scott Woodward is hopeful about this upcoming season.

"I am very optimistic we're going to play football and that we're going to play in front of a lot of people," Woodward said.

It's unclear as to just how many fans will be in Tiger Stadium.

"We'll be prepared for whether it's 80 percent full, 50 percent full, 20 percent full, we will handle that in a way, but we're going to look at best practices and try to learn over the next hundred days of how to protect our student-athletes, to protect our students, our staff and very importantly, protect our fans from this virus," Woodward said.

He said that the school is discussing different protocols they will likely have to enforce on game days this season. These include: social distancing for fans, stagger entry based on sections, disinfecting mists and temperature readings.

Woodward said it's still early to make any final decisions on crowd size. That is something they'll likely decide in July.

LSU football players returned to campus at the start of June, and the first voluntary team activities were on June 9.

The Tigers' fall camp is supposed to begin during the final week of July. The season is set to start with a Sept. 5 home kickoff against the University of Texas at San Antonio.

The Saints are also coming up with different alternatives for the Superdome this season. Right now, they're discussing the arena between being between 17 and 50-percent filled.

The Superdome capacity is 75,000. Seventeen-percent capacity would equal only about 13,000 fans per game.

But Executive Vice President of Superdome operator AMG Global Doug Thornton said that the 13,000 number would be the worst-case scenario. He said they are currently trying to find "creative seating arrangements or other avenues to avoid such a steep drop."

The Saints are slated to begin the season at home on Sept. 13 against the Tamp Bay Buccaneers.