Top FL university officials won’t regulate fan attendance systemwide

University of Central Florida football stadium. Credit: UCF athletics website.

The Florida Board of Governors that oversees the state’s public universities isn’t getting involved statewide in regulating safety measures for college football fans during COVID-19.

A faculty union had raised concerns over universities allowing fans to attend college football games in stadiums as the pandemic continues.

But a Florida Board of Governors spokeswoman said individual schools are given the authority to decide whether to allow fan attendance and establish its own safety measures.

“The Board’s Blueprint for Reopening Campuses gives the universities the flexibility necessary to monitor and adjust safety protocols on their individual campuses, which would include stadiums,” Renee’ Fargason, spokeswoman for the State University System of Florida, said in an email to the Florida Phoenix.

As previously reported by the Florida Phoenix, Marshall Ogletree, executive director of the United Faculty of Florida, questioned whether it’s safe to allow fans in stadiums, amid a global pandemic.

Ogletree had sent a letter to State University System of Florida Chancellor Marshall Criser about the issue.

In May, the Florida Board of Governors approved a blueprint to guide public universities to reopen campuses safely in the fall and each university was tasked with drafting a plan to reopen campuses following those safety guidelines outlined in the blueprint.

Fans at a Florida State University football game last weekend in Tallahassee were seen on television at Doak Campbell Stadium not wearing face masks and barely practicing social distancing. And university officials were disappointed by fans’ lack of adherence to safety measures required for attending games.

FSU Director of Athletics David Coburn said in a written statement released on Sunday:

“We were disappointed with some fans, particularly some student fans, at the Georgia Tech football game who did not comply with our policies regarding social distancing and wearing masks while in their seats.

There was ample room for all fans to remain safely distanced.  We have three weeks until our next home game, and we will re-double our efforts to both inform our patrons and improve compliance with the new rules.”

Many of Florida’s public universities had established a variety of safety measures for those attending football games and other sporting events in the fall.

Fan attendance at football games is allowed at the University of Central Florida in Orlando. John Heisler, UCF senior associate athletics director, said in an email to the Phoenix that “new measures” have been “taken for UCF football games due to the virus.”

According to UCF’s website, some of those safety measures for people attending games include “practicing physical distancing, frequently washing hands, using hand sanitizer, wearing face coverings and entering the assigned gate on their mobile ticket.”