Sterk: Possible to have 50% to full capacity at Mizzou games
Missouri athletic director Jim Sterk said Thursday that Memorial Stadium could see anywhere from 50% to full capacity for home football games this fall.
Nothing official has been announced for any of the Tigers’ six games in Columbia scheduled this year, but Sterk’s remarks present strides of optimism compared to projections tossed around last month.
“I think it's going to be a range and probably 17 scenarios on how we do (fans at games), but we're trying to wait until we make that final decision as much as we can,” Sterk said. “But it could be anywhere from 50% to 75% to closer to full capacity in some games. I think that will depend on the health officials as we get information. That will depend on the fans, and we're going to do a good job of educating what we're doing to keep it a healthy place.”
Sterk said Missouri is “a little bit above” last year’s football season ticket renewal rate but that the school has been unable to take full advantage due to COVID-19.
Refunds will be given to season ticket holders if any shift in scheduling occurs.
Sterk anticipates no delay to the start date of Sept. 5 for football season, with the Tigers’ 2020 opener at home against Central Arkansas. He said other fall sports such as volleyball could start before that date.
“Given the realities of the situation at that time, we may have to pivot and change, and I just ask that our fans and supporters give us a little leeway this year,” Sterk said. “It's going to be an unusual year. It could be, I think, a very exciting year, and I’m excited about what this fall brings, but it's probably going to look different than anything that we've ever had before.”
Missouri athletics’ tests for the coronavirus are being supplied by MU Health Care, Sterk said.
The tests currently cost the university around $150 each. The university is outsourcing for the initial wave of tests, but the costs are expected to decrease once MU has its own testing operation in place.
Missouri announced its decision last week to test all student-athletes returning to Columbia, changing its original stance of testing only those with symptoms.
“We were listening to all the latest and then I think as that week got closer and as people started to have positive tests, (UM System) President (Mun) Choi and our medical team and all of us made a decision to pivot there and test our student-athletes and staff that were coming in,” Sterk said.
Reaction to protests
Sterk was one of several Missouri athletics employees to take part in a peaceful protest of racial injustice June 3 led by football player Martez Manuel.
The next day, Sterk said he spent time on Zoom with MU athletes about the situation to address it with them directly.
“Just to reinforce that I haven't walked in their shoes,” Sterk said of minority athletes and the reason for the interactions. “I think that no one that's not black, a man or a woman, hasn't walked in their shoes and hasn't experienced the things, whether they're subtle or overt or intentional, that they've experienced. And, you know, it hurts because we're all part of the same race.
“... I think we can all make Mizzou better and we can make Missouri better. We can make this nation a heck of a lot better and so, we're going to listen and we're going to learn and we're going to keep moving forward and take positive steps towards that.”
Sterk remembered his first hire as an athletic director was Ritchie McKay, who took over the men’s basketball program at Portland State, and his first major coaching hire at MU was Cuonzo Martin. Both Martin and McKay are African American males.
“They were the best people that I thought for the job. And did that make me a better person? No, for hiring them,” Sterk said. “But it made me a better person knowing each of those folks and diversity inclusion makes us all better.”