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Jack Swarbrick: Notre Dame Stadium Won’t Be At Full Capacity In 2020

Jack Swarbrick’s preference throughout the contingency planning for college football season around COVID-19 concerns is to have fans in the stands for Notre Dame’s home games.

But even if the situation is safe for fans, he says the stadium won’t be full.

“We haven’t gotten to the question of how big that audience is, but we won’t be at capacity,” Swarbrick said Tuesday on “The Fight” fundraiser. “We’ll do something less than that and we’ll be very careful about maintaining social distance, how the facility works, how you enter it and exit it.

“All things are to be determined and we’re working hard on.”

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Notre Dame vice president and director of athletics Jack Swarbrick
Swarbrick said home games will be played in front of a less-than-capacity crowd in 2020. (Notre Dame Media Relations)

Under Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb’s plan for reopening the state, fans and gatherings would be permitted by Notre Dame’s first scheduled home game, which is Sept. 12 against Arkansas. That can change if health experts or politicians deem it not a safe step to take given the state of the coronavirus.

Decisions on which ticket holders will be given priority and how many single-game tickets will be made available have not been finalized. Students, though, will be the first (and possibly only) group to be granted access as long as the team can play.

“We’re committed to having fans in the stands and we’ll start with the students,” Swarbrick said. “My view throughout has been if we think it’s safe for students to be on the field playing football, it should be safe for students to be in the stands watching football. We’ll build off that base.”

In-game and pre-game experiences will look different, too. Swarbrick said tailgating will be restricted in some manner. The approach to concessions and bathrooms will change. Seating will have some kind of spacing.

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“We’re focused on gathering all the best practices and ideas we can,” Swarbrick said. “Some of the NFL teams are a little further down the road, so we’re looking at what they’re doing. But it won’t be in that normal tailgating environment. We need to create distance and make sure people are safe.

“In the stadium, we’re going to work really hard to create some space.”

Notre Dame is scheduled to open the season Aug. 29 against Navy in Ireland. The idea of playing the game there is appearing more and more unlikely, especially after the NFL moved its games set for London back to the United States. But no final decision has been made and the familiar holding pattern remains.

“It’s derivative of other things,” Swarbrick said. “What’s the plan for the campus during the fall? It’s important we don’t address these athletic issues separate from the larger university issues.

“… What’s college athletics like? Is college football going to start on time? Forget Notre Dame and Navy. When we get better information on those two things, we can answer the specific Ireland question.”

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