NACOGDOCHES, Texas (KTRE) - As Texas continues to reopen it appears athletes will soon be back on the campus of Stephen F. Austin with fans returning in the fall.
A task force over administrators from around the campus have been working on ways to bring back students and fans. According to Athletic Director Ryan Ivey it will be a phased in approach. The first phase starts on June 1 with the athletic department opening up the training facilities for voluntary workouts.
“We will start on June 1 with local student athletes,” Ivey said. “We are defining ‘local student-athletes’ as those that live in Nacogdoches or within a 50 mile radius. I think for us we can contain that. That is about 70 athletes for us.”
The next phase is planned to start on July 1 with summer access for football and the men’s and women’s basketball teams. Ivey said if all goes well then the remainder of fall student-athletes would return for voluntary workouts on the second week of July.
“Nothing has been granted yet by the NCAA on summer access but we are planning on that moving forward,” Ivey said. "The reality of it is if that summer access period is not allowed then the football season will be dramatically altered. "
The department is working out the final details of how athletes will be allowed back in under social distancing guidelines. The department currently has a 25-page document outlining all of their procedures When it comes to getting fans back into the stadium, Ivey said the department is working on several plans. Homer Bryce Stadium sits 14,575 but with the added grass space around the stadium it is estimated the venue has room for roughly 25,000 fans. If the government only allows 25% capacity in the fall that would leave the university with the ability to have 6,250 fans in attendance.
“We are fortunate with our berms and hills that maybe we could spread out people,” Ivey said. “Maybe that is not going to be ideal for them with them not seated on a bleacher or seat but maybe they could bring a blanket with their family and you could really start to spread people out across the entire bowl section.”
The problem the school will need to address are the amenities offered.
“The concern will be entering and exiting the stadium and how to do that,” Ivey said. " We are also looking at different concession opportunities and what that looks like. The other area that is going to give us fits is the restroom situation. We are looking at different areas about putting in temporary restrooms right now."