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Despite Pac-12 statement, Stanford cannot allow families at football practices, games

Fan attendance would break 200-person gathering limit in Santa Clara county

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A little under a month ago on Sep. 24, the Pac-12 conference confirmed that it would allow student-athletes’ family members to attend football games during the 2020 season. The conference noted, however, that attendance would be subject to local and state health guidelines and must follow NCAA regulations. 

The Cardinal received clearance to resume on-campus practices last week, but as Santa Clara guidelines currently stand, the University will not allow fans at Stanford Stadium this season. The home-opener versus Colorado is set for Saturday, Nov. 14 — just three weeks away.

Santa Clara County improved to the ‘orange-tier’ in COVID-19 transmission levels last week, which allow the resumption of college athletics and outdoor gatherings of up to 200 people. Considering the size of the team — the roster currently sits at 101 — and the opposing team, plus the need for officials, broadcasters, medical staff, etc., there will not be extra room in the stadium.

Stanford Athletics Communications Director Scott Swegan confirmed earlier in the week that the University does not anticipate having families or fans at practice or games.

“Family attendance at road games will be determined by what those local public health officials have determined,” Swegan wrote in an email.

Stanford’s three guaranteed road games will be versus Oregon Week 1, Cal Week 4 and Washington Week 5.

“I am just happy that these teams get a partial season,” said Dawn Mills, starting senior quarterback Davis Mills‘ mother. “Definitely disappointed that we might not see my son play in person.”

Dawn notes that Davis’ father, Steve, coached their son since Davis started playing football at age six through his 8th grade season.

“He’s been at every game,” Dawn said of her husband, “and can’t imagine a season that he can’t be there to watch him in person.”

The Pac-12’s statement came in the wake of a petition that was started by players and family members requesting that state governors make an exception to allow athletes’ families to attend football games. The petition highlighted the ease of physically distancing in stadiums designed for 50,000 to 80,000 fans as well as the importance of familial support for players’ emotional health during particularly difficult times. 

Over 4,300 people have signed the petition at the time of publication.

(Photo: DAVID ELKINSON/isiphotos.com)

Compared to other leagues like the SEC and Big 12, the Pac-12’s regulations are strict. In the SEC, for example, each school can determine the number of fans, although they still must comply with county and state guidelines. Most SEC schools are operating at 20-25% capacity with about 12,000 to 27,000 fans in the stadium for each game. The Big 12 schools are also planning to operate at a similar capacity. Only some SEC and Big 12 programs have banned tailgates and re-entry.  

“We understand that we can’t control the uncontrollable,” Dawn said of parents’ outlooks on the season. “And if given an opportunity to attend in person, we will be there.”

Cybele Zhang contributed reporting.

Contact Harper Hummelt at hummelth ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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