Auburn Georgia Football

Georgia students gather in the stands before an NCAA college football game against Auburn, Saturday, Oct. 3, 2020, in Athens, Ga. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson, Pool)

The University of Georgia Athletic Association plans to enforce social distancing measures for the upcoming home football game this Saturday, Oct. 10 against the University of Tennessee. 

The response follows social media backlash regarding images of the crowd at the Georgia-Auburn game in Sanford Stadium last weekend concerning a lack of social distancing and fans not wearing masks. 

Senior deputy athletic director Josh Brooks said that adjustments will be made in allocating fans to the three student sections. 

“We had some empty spots in the West 100 and North 300 sections so we are going to adjust our numbers slightly to add more people to those areas,” Brooks said, adding that this will free up space in the popular North 100 section which is on the 40-yard line. 

Brooks also said there would be an increase in staff and security members in the stadium, especially at the 100 sections to remind fans to stay in their designated seats and areas. He said that keeping these areas clean is the most important affair for this Saturday. 

Claude Felton, UGA senior associate athletic director, said in an email masks are not required when fans are sitting in their assigned “pods” of two or four people. The pods are marked with red Georgia seatbacks throughout the bleachers and red tape in the student section.

Brooks said that they still have work to do to get all fans to 100% compliance with mask wearing as they move about the venue. Staff will place more focus on this effort on Saturday.

No changes will be made to the mask-wearing rule inside the stadium. Face-coverings will still be required when entering and exiting the stadium or using restrooms and concessions. Staff members will also be passing out masks to those who don’t have them upon entering the game.

In an ArchNews email on Wednesday, athletic director Greg McGarity reminded students to sit or stand in clearly identified seating marked with social distancing in mind and practice proper hygiene by using hand sanitizer dispensers around the stadium.

The SEC has not commented on any questions raised about the fans in Sanford Stadium. Brooks said he has not heard from the conference.

The official announced crowd in Sanford Stadium at the UGA-Auburn game was 20,524 people. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the highest number of attendees allowed this season to maintain 25% of capacity is 23,186.

Comments on Twitter criticized pictures and videos of fans, suggesting that social distancing measures were ignored. Georgia fans in the student section did not appear to be 6 feet apart in many of the shots shown during the ESPN broadcast on TV. 

“All it takes is one deceiving camera shot of three or four people that is angled to look like a group of 12...it’s kind of like an optical illusion,” Brooks said. Brooks and the athletic department will be working with key partners and cameramen to ask them not to come into the crowd in order to prevent congregation points. 

Brooks said that he was overall impressed with how students complied with the new standards and measures at the Auburn game. The athletic department will continue to send out email reminders this week to students about social distancing measures and to wear masks. 

“99% of it went really well and we just need to clean up that 1%,” Brooks said, referring to the students who did not comply.

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