Head to Head: Will fan compliance work for football games?

Sports Editor Zane Douglas and Assistant Sports Editor Matt Belinson discuss whether fan compliance will work for football.

Matt Belinson and Zane Douglas

When Iowa State Athletic Director Jamie Pollard revealed his detailed plan for having roughly 25,000 fans attend Iowa State’s first football game Sept. 12, his message was clear.

It all comes down to fan compliance, or possibly lack thereof.

If fans can follow new mitigation strategies implemented by the athletic department Sept. 12, Iowa State will move forward and continue to allow fans at Jack Trice Stadium to watch the Cyclones play in 2020.

And if those measures are not followed, Pollard said of fans who don’t comply: “Don’t try it because you’re not going to like the outcome.”

As the Sept. 12 opener approaches and fans will soon get a chance to prove their ability to follow protocols, Iowa State Daily Sports Editors Zane Douglas and Matt Belinson decided to go “Head to Head” and debate if fan compliance will end up working out for Iowa State athletics.

Douglas: There is no way this will work

This plan is going to backfire.

The pandemic is long from over and with the way the state of Iowa and especially the city of Ames is handling the pandemic since the return of students to Iowa State, this is a rash decision that could backfire easily.

The logistics of it are pretty simple with fans in the stadium keeping their distance while the game goes on, but policing that kind of strict policy is going to be difficult.

Assuming Iowa State fans are generally respectful, which the videos and photos of parties upon the return to campus would not totally back up, it would still be challenging to maintain distance and practice healthy social distancing.

The data will back it up that at least this number of fans is too many. According to a New York Times article, Ames was the No. 1 city in the country for the most cases in relation to population in the last two weeks as of Sunday.

Campus is staying in person or hybrid, with some classes taking a temporary absence for one or two weeks. Bars have shut down and Iowa State President Wendy Wintersteen has reiterated in emails the importance of social distancing, but a football game is not a place 25,000 fans can do that safely.

There may be a number of fans that work, and prior to the recent outbreaks I wasn’t totally opposed to the idea of heavy policing and some fans, but I was still only on board if it could be a guaranteed no risk situation. This is not that and it’s frankly irresponsible to paint it that way.

Part of the reason behind this decision could be about the trust Wintersteen and Pollard have in Iowa State students and season ticket holders. Even if this trust was accurate, it won’t be fully about trust in this type of situation, because people in a crowded stadium that are enjoying a game can be as cautious as possible, but they will still be around thousands of fans cheering or making noise or not keeping to themselves.

Pollard also said if you feel sick you should stay home, but I don’t know how likely it is that someone who has a mild cough will want to stay home from a football game they paid to go to and the virus has been shown to not show any symptoms in some people who have it.

It will be so much more than just tough to pull off, so don’t be surprised if the game against Louisiana is the last one with fans.

Belinson: I think this can work. I think.

I am not blind. I have been on campus for weeks now and I can see how this opinion could be viewed as ignorant.

“801 day” was a black mark on us as a university and as a student body. The crowded bars in the days and weeks following 801 day left a lot of people like myself wondering when we would have to start packing up our things to head back home.

But since the governor announced all bars in Story County would be closed until Sept. 20, I have been feeling a lot better about how my fellow students and citizens of Ames have started to approach the mitigation strategies put in place. This could just be my wishful thinking and me only looking at the brief positives on and off campus I see on a daily basis, but I do believe students are now realizing how much their actions impact how this school year will play out.

And with college football so close, fans finally know what’s at stake.

That’s why I have faith in the roughly 5,000 students and the other 20,000 Cyclone fans to do the right thing and follow the safety protocols at Jack Trice Stadium on Sept. 12 (ducks for cover).

I think the biggest reason why I believe Iowa State fans can do this is because of how Pollard brilliantly framed the idea of compliance at games.

Students and adults don’t want to comply to things “simply to comply,” although you could argue the safety of the public would be a good enough reason to comply. But as we have all seen over the last five months, that simply isn’t the case for some people. Some people need something they care about to be at stake in order for them to follow the rules in place.

But if you dangle the promise of live sports in front of them, I truly believe fans will follow the requirements because they know their actions now directly affect how Iowa State athletics moves forward. Pollard literally said so himself.

A frenzy of fans all across social media have flooded my timeline and the comments of other journalists these last few months with some saying ‘let those who feel comfortable enough be allowed in’ and other sayings along that line. I think sports is one of the few things right now that frankly people will actually want to follow the COVID-19 guidelines for. It’s sad but I think it’s true. 

Sports have power in America.

Pollard knows this and by leaving it up to the fans to decide how this turns out, I think it is a brilliant strategy. Now instead of being labeled “a corona-bro” who badgers others in public for not following mitigation rules, fans and students will now be seen as defending the college football season and everyone’s chance to come to other home games.

Pollard has framed the issue into two types of fans: Those who are hurting other fans’ experiences and those who aren’t. Pollard framed the issue so simply that you would be a true moron to want to be accused of being the former.

You can have your opinion on whether it is dumb or not, but you can’t tell me the idea of being allowed to watch the Cyclones in person wouldn’t entice college kids and die-hard fans to follow the strict protocols.

Now there is a real possibility this goes sideways real quick, but I think if anything has any shot of getting people to buy in to following COVID-19 protocols, it’s the promise of watching live sports.