Social distancing at CCU football games a real possibility, athletic director says

CCU athletics still hammering out details on football season

CONWAY, S.C. (WMBF) - College football fans can’t breathe out a sigh of relief just yet.

Even though Coastal Carolina University has announced plans to reopen for students to attend in-person classes in the fall of 2020, there are still many questions about what the semester has in store for the Chanticleers.

Matt Hogue, the athletic director at CCU, said right now he doesn’t have concrete plans on how the season will look. He said the university will likely approach a three-phase approach, starting with focusing on getting athletes back to practice. However, he said they are not there yet.

He said while coaches are in touch with athletes virtually, athletes have experienced a lot of disruption and it takes time to restart a program that was put on pause.

“I think there’s still a great deal of uncertainty because we don’t know where we will be once we get to that game day just yet," Hogue said. “Everyone is working off a model of whether or not you don’t have any fans, you are working off a model if you have fans, how the protocol works with social distancing, checking folks as they come into the event, making sure they are separated in the stadium. I think all those things are gonna be realities, we all understand that, but what extent is what we’re trying to sort through right now."

He said in the meantime, the potential impact of lost revenue is a main concern of the athletic department.

Hogue explained missing out on NCAA revenue from the cancellation of March Madness is when the problems began. He said he expects to see a loss of revenue moving forward from possible social distancing requirements from games if less fans or even no fans are allowed in. However, he said there is still revenue from televised games due to preexisting deals.

Hogue added right now CCU isn’t looking to cut teams that aren’t profitable through ticket sales or television deals. While those programs cost money, he said students are attracted to Coastal to play on those teams, and likely pay close to full tuition to attend.

“But I think at the end of the day what we can’t forget is, we have students who are here, who are pursuing an education, they are pursuing obviously the development of their athletic gifts, we can’t close the door on them too quickly, too much in a hasty way, we gotta make sure we’re doing right by our student-athletes first and foremost," Hogue said.

Hogue also said they are not considering cutting coaches’ pay or furloughing staff. He added CCU would need permission from the state to take those measures, but nothing is off the table for the future.

He said moving forward for games and reinstating practices, safety from coronavirus is still the top priority.

“We’re not going to infringe upon what our public health orders and our protocols are but I’m very hopeful we can find the right place, once the fall comes," Hogue said.

“Does that mean we play on the date we are scheduled to play? Maybe not. Maybe that moves. I think everybody has been looking at that possibility too. But I think a genuine goal, to try to get it in, get your season in is still very much something everyone’s working to,” Hogue added.

A representative from the Sun Belt conference said much of the season is still being discussed because each team is currently following different local and state guidelines when it comes to reopening. The conference added they are taking cues from other conferences, the NCAA, and even professional sports leagues about how to move forward.

At this time the Chants are still scheduled to take on the South Carolina Gamecocks on September 5 at Williams Brice Stadium in Columbia.

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