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University athletic programs prepare for fall season in the Coastal Empire

Updated: Jun. 6, 2021 at 10:35 PM EDT
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - With some teams playing for limited capacity crowds and others playing in empty arenas, sports during the 2020-2021 school year didn’t look like any year prior.

Georgia Southern had limited capacity until the final baseball home series of the year and first-year Athletic Director Jared Benko says they learned from it all.

“Really we all worked together I felt like to have a good year overall for home events, but there’s always things you can do better. I think through COVID it brought up some things we can get operation, get more efficient at, and so, you’re always trying to find ways to get better for the next season and that’s what we’ll do. It’s no different this year,” he said.

For Savannah State, they had no fall sports and empty stands the entire year, meaning no ticket revenue.

“We also didn’t have a football season, so from a travel perspective and a budgetary perspective, some of those things off set, so we were willing to, you know, take the good with the bad, and the good was, our student athletes were able to play here on campus,” said Opio Mashariki, Savannah State’s Athletic Director.

Both ADs say that for now their departments are moving forward with plans to have fans back in the stadiums for football in the fall.

“The plan is to have students back on campus, so then our plan is to look at our stadium capacities, look to either go 50 percent or somewhere around 80 percent capacity,” said Mashariki.

“I think we’ve all learned through COVID things can change and you want to be nimble, but at the same standpoint, we’re working towards continuation of where we ended baseball, with no attendance restrictions in football and no social distancing restrictions as well,” said Benko.

Both schools will have to take guidance from local and state government and the University System of Georgia, as well as their respective conferences.

Georgia Southern says they’ll be selling football tickets in regular capacity, but Savannah State plans to only sell a limited number of seats initially and may decide to increase later.

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