I hope that you and your families are well.
It’s been 71 days since we began remote operations for our athletic department. This time away from our campus has been a major adjustment, but one that I believe we’ve handled well.
Before we look ahead, I want to take a quick look at some of the honors we’ve seen around our program. First, another recognition of the 57 student-athletes who earned degrees in the spring – we hope to honor you soon. The Nieri Family Student-Athlete Enrichment Center helped our student-athletes to four APR National Recognition Awards, and eight programs to perfect 1000 scores in the most recent completed academic year.
The biggest news this month goes to Robbie Robinson, who was named the Anthony J. McKevlin Award winner as the ACC Male Athlete of the Year – the first men’s soccer player ever to do so. Congratulations to Robbie, Coach Noonan and our soccer program.
We’ve also been celebrating Nancy Harris, who is retiring in June after an incredible 23-year run with our women’s tennis program. I had the chance to visit with Nancy and 50 of her former student-athletes from all over the world on a Zoom call recently, and it was a great reminder of how well-respected she is and what she means to all those she mentored over the years.
I have to remind myself that though it feels like a long time, we still have 89 days to go before classes begin in the fall, and 100 days until the football season is scheduled to begin. We’ve focused a lot of energy on looking ahead to the 2020-21 academic and athletic year, and while we don’t have all of the answers yet, some pieces are beginning to come into focus.
One thing I can say definitively is how thankful I am to our fans and members of IPTAY. As it relates to football in the fall, we remain optimistic about the ability to play our scheduled games. Our season ticket request deadline passed on May 15, and we are tracking ahead of last year’s record total. Our student interest was also equally encouraging. In all, donors and students have requested nearly 60,000 season tickets.
In conjunction with IPTAY, we announced a ticket payment plan with no payments for 90 days, as well as a refund policy on tickets, if the season is modified or games are canceled.
Our continued focus is on the safety of our student-athletes, coaches, staff and fans. To that end, we have many working groups planning for a return to football this fall under varying scenarios, including a limited capacity within Memorial Stadium. We are modeling how our stadium would handle a limited capacity situation, relating to priority, potential refunds and associated issues.
Other modifications include the full transition to mobile ticket delivery, as well as potential adaptations to tailgating, parking and concessions operations.
As we look ahead, I want to make you aware of how we’ve interfaced with campus and those resulting COVID-19 operational principles.
Four of our staff members have been in daily meetings with the Emergency Operations Center, and have met with each coaching staff and department head individually to help understand the return to operations framework. The three-phased return plan is in lockstep with President Clements’ messaging from last week, and the pace is set by the University and DHEC.
Phase I outlines a limited return to on-campus activities. For many of us in athletics, this phase looks similar to the present. It includes staff members directly responsible for the health and well-being of student-athletes, as well as those preparing facilities for Phase II.
For our student-athletes, the NCAA last week approved voluntary activity to resume June 1. First, our football, men’s basketball and women’s basketball student-athletes will return and begin voluntary activity and medical screening starting June 8. They’ll adhere to guidelines brought together by our Sports Medicine team. This includes social distancing, face coverings, and limited meeting groups for voluntary activity. We’ll begin conversations this week with our other sports on a potential return to campus for voluntary activity.
Phase II involves an expanded return to on-campus operations. During this phase, coaching staffs are able to assimilate back, adhering to guidelines on face coverings, social distance and other safety measures. During this phase, we’ll also welcome back more of our student-athletes for voluntary activity.
Phase III begins the future state of our operational status. At this point, operations are able to resume in full. This stage includes continued encouragement of social distancing, face coverings, and other non-pharmaceutical interventions – this is what the University terms as “future state.” Students can resume some classes in person, and the phase allows for a possibility for a return to intercollegiate competition.
Our staff has spent countless hours working through a safe return for our student-athletes, staff and looking ahead to our fall athletic calendar. When June 8 comes, we’ll begin seeing our student-athletes repopulating our facilities and preparing for fall.
We’ve looked at many scenarios so far, but have chosen to refrain from speculating about numbers, capacities and policies, as we feel we need more information to make such impactful decisions. We must continue to review and then do what’s best for Clemson.
It’s no secret that a modified fall would be less than ideal, but Clemson is prepared to handle many of the scenarios ahead of us, in large part due to the generosity of our donors and partners.
As we look to the fall, we know there is still uncertainty – what we know today may be different tomorrow. I encourage you to continue talking to us, contacting us and reaching out. We’re spending all of our energy working for a safe return.
Thank you, and Go Tigers!
Dan RadakovichDirector of Athletics