It’s hard to believe that the 2021-22 academic and athletic year is upon us. Our soccer and volleyball programs are off and running, and we’re just days away from the start of football, cross country, and golf competition.
The past 18 months have provided us many new learning opportunities in several operational areas. Just as we thought the ongoing pandemic was behind us, we have been reminded of the need to be diligent in our health and safety protocols. This has been a point of emphasis for us as we seek to mitigate the impact of COVID and the Delta variant on our community and programs.
As a department, several of our programs have eclipsed the 85% vaccination threshold implemented by the Atlantic Coast Conference. More than 80 percent of our student-athletes are vaccinated, and more than 90% of our staff have done so as well. We continue to stand with our campus and I urge those who have not yet been vaccinated to consider doing so, and to continue to adhere to safety guidelines.
It’s important to note that in addition to the threat of serious illness, there is also a contact tracing and quarantine circumstance to navigate. We are working to educate our student-athletes on how they can remain healthy, and one of those ways is to be vaccinated.
We recognize the role that athletics plays in the Clemson community, and we’re committed to helping promote a safe atmosphere for all who visit campus.
Football season is coming soon, and we are looking forward to the marquee event this weekend in Charlotte against Georgia. All signs continue to point to a full-capacity scenario, and we are looking forward to playing on the biggest of stages, complete with ESPN’s College Gameday on site. Our allotment of more than 27,000 tickets went quickly, and we are looking forward to all that orange at Bank of America Stadium.
As we approach the home portion of the football schedule, we’re working to refine our operational planning to help ensure a safe environment in our facilities, and will communicate details of those plans in the coming days. Some operational decisions are yet to be made, but it is our plan to have a full stadium and traditional tailgating come September 11. As we draw closer to gameday, we continue to monitor the latest guidance, in lockstep with campus, and understand that the way a game looks on Sept. 11 may not be the same as it does later in the season.
There is no doubt the football experience is central to the financial health of our athletic program. Our IPTAY members showed once again how dedicated and generous they are as we saw more than 57,000 season tickets purchased with a renewal rate greater than 97 percent.
This is a testament to our IPTAY members’ commitment to our program. This support makes a huge difference as we strive to provide first-class support of our student-athletes, on and off the field. Our student-athletes continue to achieve at a high level in the classroom, including a GPA above 3.0 for a sixth straight semester, a 93 percent graduation rate and a department-record 333 student-athletes on the ACC Honor Roll.
Our department has recently expanded with the addition of Lacrosse in spring 2023 along with Gymnastics that starts competition in early 2024. The interest and support of these programs has been incredible. We are looking forward to adding our sport offerings and creating outstanding opportunities for our 50-plus new female student-athletes.
Coach Allison Kwolek is already on campus to lead our Lacrosse program. With Gymnastics, we’ll look to pursue a head coach in the spring and place our search in line with a national standard from a timing perspective. We want to get it right, and with two full athletic years, we believe this gives us the best opportunity to build a competitive program.
With respect to our student-athletes, a major shift took place in July as student-athletes are now able to capitalize on the use of their name, image and likeness. Our internal working group has worked diligently to develop a policy in line with the State of South Carolina Law. If you have not done so already, I’d encourage you to visit our information page to learn more. This is constantly evolving, but we support this modernization of college athletics.
We are partnered with Opendorse in our education and content distribution and are working with CLC Compass to help satisfy some of our educational programming and state-required reporting. Our student-athletes have already seen some of the benefits here, and we will continue to prep our student-athletes with educational and developmental opportunities, in line with our mission to prepare our student-athletes for life off the field.
We’ve already seen some of the impact from new ACC Commissioner Jim Phillips in many areas, and I’ve appreciated his leadership in a number of areas. We were able to meet with him on our campus, where he heard from many of our student-athletes and staff, and learn more about our culture. College athletics continues to evolve, and I appreciate the Commissioner’s willingness to listen and then make decisions in the best interest of the conference. I have full confidence in his ability to help navigate a changing landscape at the conference level. The ACC’s recent announcement of the Alliance with the Pac-12 and Big Ten will only serve to strengthen our league.
I hope you’ll continue to monitor the latest health guidelines, and look out for game information in the coming days as our policies begin to become more firm. If the 2020-21 year taught us anything, it’s that we are willing and able to adapt. We will continue to be nimble and are looking forward to seeing full stadiums this fall!
Dan RadakovichDirector of Athletics