JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – Football in the South. Some say it’s almost a religion. Game days mean packed stadiums for schools and big money. In some cases, universities depend on the millions of dollars in revenue.
But amid the COVID-19 pandemic, no one can really count on anything happening like it always did. That includes having students on campus and fans in the stands.
“How can we provide that safe environment for the fans that we have. And at the same time, be sure we are able to have athletics that are so important,” said Dr. David Shaw, Provost at Mississippi State University.
Shaw is chairing a task force that includes representatives from Mississippi’s eight public universities. The task force’s goal is to decide on how to reopen safely in the fall.
“There is a great deal of conversation going on right now about athletics and the role it plays, both for the standing point of the financial revenue, but also from the standpoint of just the university experience,” stated Shaw.
Universities already took a financial hit this spring, when students had to leave campus. Refunds had to be made for food and housing that was no longer needed.
Some schools already know what they’re doing this fall. Millsaps College, which is a private college, said it’s going to open. College leaders are confident they can protect the student population.
Mississippi State University is also preparing for in-person classes this fall. MSU has more than 21,000 students to keep safe. If you combine all of Mississippi’s eight public schools, there are more than 80,000 students to keep safe from COVID-19. How will they be protected?
The Safe Start Task Force is working on guidelines. Shaw said their report should be done by the end of May, with guidelines that will work at the schools.