Popular tailgating gatherings prior to and during Illinois State football games will apparently not be permitted during the upcoming season. The action is a result of guidelines spelled out by the state related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Gov. JB Pritzker announced on Monday that sports stadiums would be allowed to hold events at 20% capacity beginning when Phase 4 of Pritzker’s Restore Illinois plan goes into effect Friday. The guidelines are for parts of Illinois dependent on if they meet the criteria outlined by the state. However, indoor stadiums are still closed until further notice.

The Phase 4 guidelines would allow Hancock Stadium to open for games with at most 2,678 fans in attendance. This number is consistent with the 20% cap in attendance. However, the state added that events should avoid crowding entrances and exits in the stadium.

However, also in Illinois reopening guidelines, the state is prohibiting tailgating activities during this impending season.

Illinois State University Assistant Athletics Director Mike Williams said the school is exploring the impact of the guidelines on the upcoming fall sports seasons.

“We’re still working through all that. We don’t know, we’ve been doing some initial looks at the stadium seeing where we can socially distance appropriately, but we don’t have a seating chart in place yet because it came out yesterday,” Williams said.

With plans to bring back sporting events, the NCAA announced on June 12 that it had approved an altered training camp with organized team activities for athletes and coaches. The NCAA also said that “late July” would be when teams could begin camps provided their local and state guidelines allow it.

“The NCAA set a date of July 24 but ours is actually July 23 because we open on Friday instead of a Saturday but that’s for what they call more organized team activities … it’s not gonna be full team full practice,” Williams said.

So, with a tentative date set, Illinois State football looks to return on July 23 for team activities. In addition, Williams later said Aug. 6 is when the first actual practice was scheduled for Redbird football.

Eventually when the venues open, masks will be required for use when inside the stadium unless attendees are at their seat and at least 6 feet apart from another person. Furthermore, while inside Hancock Stadium, anyone selling food or drinks must adhere to the current state guidelines outlined to bars and restaurants.

“I would say we will focus our attention on these new guidelines and shelve the alternate scenarios we were running. So, we will dig in on the impacts to our fall sports of football, volleyball and soccer. These are broad guidelines and we have several questions that need to be answered. There is a caveat in the guidelines that capacity restrictions could change as we continue through Phase 4,” Illinois State University Director of Athletics Larry Lyon said.

As of now, all preparations are being made for Illinois State University football to be back this year. While this situation is fluid and evolving, the first steps have been taken in order to assure that football is back in a safe and organized manner for this year.

Illinois State is scheduled to open the season on Sept. 4 at Illinois. The first home at Hancock is Sept. 12 against Mid-America Classic rival Eastern Illinois.

KEN KANOON is a Sports Reporter for The Vidette. He can be contacted at Follow him on Twitter at @Ken_k____

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