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NCAA baseball teams: We plan on fans in the stands

NCAASeveral conferences have released or confirmed 2021 NCAA baseball schedules, with many schools working on plans to allow a number of socially distanced fans in the stands.

The SEC has released a full 56-game schedule beginning Feb. 19, though there are warnings regarding possible changes based on circumstances and opponent availability. And many teams have not yet announced specific COVID-19 mitigation plans, though it’s unlikely we will see any baseball team–college, pro, indy, summer collegiate–not operating with some level of COVID-19 restrictions.

Still, there are plenty of conferences not officially releasing schedules yet. The Big Ten is one. The Pac-12 is allowing individuals to work out at school facilities and will allow team practices beginning  January 29, though game schedules still need to be finalized. The Big 12 says it will hold a regular season, albeit with some slight alternations–only 30 players dressing for both conference and nonconference games.

Other conferences are looking at alterations on the schedule structure. Conference USA, for instance, is looking at a conference schedule of eight four-game series: nine-inning games on Friday and Saturday, with a Sunday doubleheaders of seven-inning games. The Mid-American Conference (MAC) is expected to follow the same format. While the MAC and the Sun Belt Conference will allow a 56-game schedule of 16 nonconference games and 40 conference games, the ACC will limit teams to a 50-game schedule.

In fact, the Sun Belt Conference is one of the few conferences announcing schedules. Coastal Carolina will play a full 56-game schedule, commencing on Feb. 19-21 with a three-game series against Duke. Coastal Carolina is indeed welcoming fans to Springs Brooks Stadium, with the following precautions planned:

  • Reduced capacity based on physical distancing guidelines.
  • Face coverings will be required.
  • Creation of “buffer” around the field and/or team areas (i.e. dugouts, bullpens).
  • Seating in General Admission (i.e. grass berm and boardwalk areas) will be assigned due to social distancing requirements.
  • Use of digital or mobile ticketing to reduce touchpoints.
  • Reduced capacity of shuttles.
  • Discouragement of tailgating in parking lots to prevent congregation of individuals (no tents will be allowed).
  • Cashless or touchless payment options (when applicable) for concessions along with pre-packaged food and beverage options.
  • Increased cleaning of high traffic areas during events.
  • No printed gameday programs or rosters.

If you’re been following our coverage of spring training and the MLB regular season, you know these limitations are pretty much de rigueur in the baseball world in 2021. But we’re guessing the fans who are looking for some baseball in the sun won’t really mind jumping through a few hoops in order to return to live play.