LUBBOCK, Texas — Texas Tech is planning for the likelihood of being limited to 25% of the maximum capacity at Jones AT&T Stadium this football season, a consequence of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
In an interview late Monday with A-J Media, Tech President Lawrence Schovanec said the likelihood of that scenario “given the current circumstances in the state, is reasonably high.”
“I would caution to add that when we get into November and December, the situation may be significantly different, that that could change,” Schovanec said. “But right now, as we plan for the start of the season, I think 25 percent is a reasonable possibility.”
That would mean only a little more than 15,000 fans would be allowed into Jones AT&T Stadium, whose listed capacity is 60,454. Tech has already begun planning for how to make it work, a little more than a month before the season starts.
“Kirby is working on it,” Schovanec said, referring to Tech athletics director Kirby Hocutt.
Tech athletics personnel had been proceeding for the past several weeks under the expectation that capacity would be no more than 50%, that according to guidance issued in early June by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott as a precautionary measure during the pandemic.
Half of capacity wasn’t overly problematic, given that Tech at the time had sold a little fewer than 23,000 season tickets and last year allotted a little more than 13,400 for student seating.
Tech never put single-game tickets on sale. Under normal circumstances, single-game sales would have started the last week of July.
Another reduction in crowd sizes could necessitate more belt tightening fiscally.
Tech senior associate athletics director Jonathan Botros, the department’s chief financial officer, said last month Tech athletics could run a balanced operating budget at $78 million if it could play all seven of its then-scheduled home games to 50% of capacity.
The $78 million was down from the $93.64 million Tech athletics originally budgeted for the 2019-2020 fiscal year. And that was before the Red Raiders lost September home dates against Alabama State and Arizona, games that would be worth worth about $2 million to $2.3 million each to the department under normal circumstances.
Big 12 presidents on Monday adopted a 10-game schedule plan under which each team will play all nine conference opponents as usual and one non-conference home game. Schovanec said the presidents are recommending the conference schedule start on Sept. 19 or Sept. 26, but are deferring that decision to the conference’s athletic directors.