The Fireworks of Opening Autzen for 2020 Football: What Would YOU DO?

Notalot Editorials 34 Comments

Seriously, have you ever thought about what it would be like to shoulder the responsibility of opening Autzen Stadium for the 2020 football season? Everything is new in this COVID-19 afflicted world we live in. We have not been here before and there is no blueprint to follow.

There are suggestions and guidelines for managing exposure to COVID-19 coming from many sources, including the White House, NIH (The National Health Institute) and CDC at the federal level, and the Office of the Governor, the Oregon Health Authority Public Health Division and county and city public health departments at the state and local levels.

At the University of Oregon various offices and entities exert influence over when and how Autzen Stadium will open and operate for games. The President, Board of Trustees, Administration, Athletic Director, Athletic Department, and the Football Department staff will have their say, directly or indirectly. Surely there are other groups with input and oversight including Facilities Management, Public Safety, Medical and Training, Concessions, and Stadium Operations.

Melissa Macatee

Larry Scott and Rob Mullens are going to need to agree on a strategy…

The above is not a complete listing, but you quickly get the idea of the complexity and overlap involved here. There are a heck of a lot of people, departments and organizations affecting the opening and operation of Autzen Stadium for the 2020 football season.

“Oh, come on”, you may be thinking, “it is not that complicated.” People are concerned for their health and responsible toward others.” Really? Just look at the pool in the Ozarks, the Ft. Lauderdale beach, or the bars in Austin for proof of what responsible people will do.

The above-named government and university agencies and departments are concerned about control, public safety, responsibility boundaries, financial impact, and public relations. Intertwined are the interests and voices of paying fans, students, athletes, season ticket holders, alums, benefactors, and media, among others. (Stay with me here) This is a complex problem requiring comprehensive, integrated solutions.

Oregon DuckS football fans are known to be loud and rabid. The fans encompass all ages from toddlers to centenarians. People have differing views by age groups- also different risk factors from exposure to COVID-19. There is no reason to think the fan base will accept and easily adjust to limitations and changes from the past norms when they are applied to Ducks Football.

Eugene Johnson

It is going to be pretty hard for us fans to practice Social Distancing…especially after a Touchdown!

So, if you were in charge, or part of the decision-making team, what stipulations would you champion for opening or not opening Autzen Stadium? Assuming opening, how will you protect the health of players and fans attending games?

Autzen football games open to fans, or not?
• Limit attendance to 15,000/30,000/Other?
• Sanitizing touch points? Which touch points?
• Spacing and social distancing in access and crowding points?
• Spacing and social distancing standards in seats?
• Masks or no masks? Everywhere or where?
• Concessions or no concessions?
• No paper tickets. No Will Call?
• Age-restricted access? Must be older than? Must be younger than?
• Temperature before entrance?
• Restroom restrictions and protocols?
• Crowd control operations?
• Tolerance of violations? Enforcement.
• Outside parking areas, walkways, tailgates, etc.?

It would be easy to drone on endlessly making lists that those responsible have already made. The point here is that some people will wrestle with these issues and others and make hard calls that will inconvenience or anger other people or even exclude them from live Ducks football.

Allow me to tell you about my community swimming pool to illustrate cause and effect as it may relate to opening Autzen. I serve on the neighborhood HOA Board – a thankless duty. Our neighborhood has a nice pool area. The pool area is the neighborhood’s most desirable amenity.

Given the COVID-19 pandemic, the Governor of the State of South Carolina ordered all public and community pools closed.

Truong Nguyen

I would not blame Strength Coach Aaron Feld for not understanding all the changing regulations.

As the rate of new cases began to fall, the Governor turned over the pool regulations to SC DHEC, (Department of Health and Environmental Control) and the DHEC soon thereafter issued “Guidelines for RE: Opening Community Pools.” Not long after that DHEC issued modified rules thereto.

Back to the pool. The board announced the pool closed until “the Guidelines of SC DHEC can be reasonably met.” The normal pool opening date in early May came and went. Residents began to scream that their rights were being denied. Some threatened lawyering up, withholding monthly assessed dues payments, attempting to organize boycotts, etc. You get it.

When the board, with legal counsel and following consultation with insurance experts, other HOA’s with pools, and following significant research decided it could open the pool under stringently-enforced 2020 COVID-19 stipulations, and only after a Waiver of Liability and Acceptance of Pool Rules Form was executed.

The decision has resulted in a polarized community of residents. Those who thought their rights and summer traditions were being violated by a closed pool are aligned against those who felt their rights are being violated and that undo risk to the HOA has been created by allowing any access to the pool. A chasm has been opened. No one on either side likes the stipulations made for the sake of safety, i.e., limiting hours; social distancing spacing; no guests allowed only residents, the Liability Waiver being mandatory to receive a 2020 pool pass, and so on.

Kevin Cline

I don’t think Phil Knight can rescue Duck fans from this mess…

Each of us has our own world view and Ducks view. Our feelings are closely tied to our own personal culture of Ducks football, our traditions, and the attitudes we hold about rules, civility, and authority.

In the debate about opening Autzen for football, it is not about you, but about common good and public health as determined by those with the authority to make those decisions. We are at the end of their whips.

Can you put aside your initial reactions, emotions, and your love of Ducks football to appreciate the wisdom and roles of those in making the decisions relevant to opening? Will you be humble and kind to your fellow Duck fans, regardless of the irritation of the needles in your hind end?

Do you wonder? What’s going on? Déjà vu.

I do.

Brent Pennington
Greenville, South Carolina
Top Photo by 

Brad Nye, the volunteer editor for this article, works for the Deschutes Land Trust in Central Oregon.


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Fireworks on the 4th…4 star, WR, Isaiah Brevard, 6’4 200 out of, Southhaven, Mississippi just committed to the Ducks.

Mike West

No doubt, its an endless discussion. At a time when peaceful solutions would be great. Glad I don’t have to make that decision.

Happy Birthday FishDuck!!!!

Appreciate all you’ve done to make this site, and this comment section world class.

Santa Rosa Duck

Thank you for tackling a really tough one Brent. I have three friends who have had COVID 19. My business parter (65) who lives fortunately in another city traveled to Vail in March for a ski trip with buddies. 3 of the 6 of them got it. He came home not knowing he had it and gave it to his wife. They were each flat down for 4-5 weeks and are back now but she has lingering issues. A business friend (32) who is in fabulous shape and a triathlete took a leave from work to help his parents with their assisted living facility that got infected. He got a viral overload and came within one day of going on a ventilator. They all say this is really nasty, way worse than any flu.

So young people will be back on campus in 60+ days. Are they going to socially distance? Not a chance. The young people bars here in Santa Rosa are packed and masks are scarce. COVID 19 is spiking in California right now and “the word” is that Governor Newsome is shutting down the state again next week or so. What happens to the Pac 12 if Cal, USC, Stanford and UCLA are delayed by another month? Well the season does not start. I would think if California Universities shut down the rest of the PAC 12 will do so as well.

So do we wait for a vaccine? There has never been a vaccine created that was effective against a Corona Virus. We have top bio tech working on this. Remember Moderna one month ago that said they had a vaccine and were ready for trial? The stock bumped way up. Well, it does not work. Think about HIV. Scientists have worked on a vaccine for HIV for 35 years and have totally failed.

So do you have a game without fans? As previously mentioned, what about the players. What if someone dies or gets permanently scarred lungs for life? Sorry, I guess you can tell that my cup is half empty but I doubt there is a season this year. Who will take the responsibility for opening up the season?


Interesting story Santa Rosa, I wish everyone would read it and understand that just because you don’t have someone close to you that has the virus, that doesn’t mean you are immune to it. So many people are not taking it very seriously but we all should. I myself am an advanced graybeard with medical problems and I do take it seriously. Very seriously. I’m sorry you have to go thru it with close friend coming down with it.

As much as I really wanted to be at the North Dakota game this year I’m coming around to the believe that its not going to happen. Well maybe thats for the better.

Thanks for sharing your story.

Steven A

Back in April, I doubted there would be a season. Then optimism crept in as states began opening in May and June. Now, I think the pro sports will be the canary-in-the-coal-mine for all sports. So, again I am pessimistic about a season, any season. This crap isn’t going away anytime soon, let alone in time for a fall sports calendar. 
And as for waivers, based upon my past attorney life, the TP they are written on is more valuable than their legal significance.
Personally, I won’t be attending any game, any sport, or Brent’s pool, without a vaccination.
Thank God for the SXM comes alive app and I can retreat to classic rock live heaven.
Go Ducks and rock-on.

Jon Joseph

Excellent take, thank you Brent.

A waiver from the fans? How about a waiver from the student-athletes? And no matter how artfully drawn, in today’s litigious world it is difficult to accept personal responsibility for almost every activity. ‘Skilled’ lawyers routinely void the affect of waivers.

This brings us to the State of Oregon. If I am an administrator at UO I would expect the following from the state and local governments: “If you follow ‘these’ guidelines. pre-game, in-game and post-game, all individuals and the university itself will be indemnified against any liability arising from the COVID-19 virus.”

Let’s look at some of what we have seen across the country. Houston and K ST opened their respective campus to student-athletes and due to the # of positive tests, shut down.

Arizona has a zero week game which allows the Wildcats to start football practice a week early; not happening. Arizona has deferred opening up to a yet to be determined date.

Based on the # of players testing positive, neither Clemson nor LSU could field a team today.

The $ situation is dire; especially, after the CBB tourney was called off. Nevertheless, I do not see university officials pushing for the season to be played, at least as currently scheduled, with so many unknowns. 1 unknown being, when young students return to campus are they going to ‘social distance?’ And how do you quarantine football players who have to attend class?

What do I think? It doesn’t matter what I think. It’s up to the ‘experts’ and I am darn happy I am not among those taxed with making these decisions.

From a fan’s POV, I do not want to play Ohio State without all hands on deck. If Autzen cannot be packed with Ducks fans going nuts against the Bucks, call the game off and re-schedule.

I do hope we have season this fall; otherwise, I’m fairly certain we have seen the last of player’s the quality of Penei, Clemson’s, Lawrence, Ohio State’s, Fields and many the other draft eligible player.

Thanks again Brent for the excellent and thought provoking take and Happy 4th!

This too shall pass.


It is a brave person who serves on an HOA board, so I respect your thoughts, Brent.

We continue to sail into uncharted waters, and the only certaintiy is, whatever the outcome, it will at some point be a bonanza for lawyers.

Happy birthday, Mr. FishDuck!

Jon Joseph

‘First thing we do, we kill all the lawyers!’ – Dick the Butcher.

Not all that much has changed since Willie Shakespeare put quill to paper.


If that idea started back with Shakespeare I wonder why it’s taking so long.

Santa Rosa Duck

BigDuck, we have to get you to Ashland once the Oregon Shakespeare Festival reopens. They have closed for the entire year.

Jon Joseph

TOO many lawyers!


Happy 4th all and happy birthday Charles! This is quite the dilemma. As much as I would love to see every seat in Autzen filled for the upcoming games we know that is not going to happen. I know there has been talk about postponing until Spring which, I assume, causes other issues besides financially.
I agree with Haywardduck, hoping the student athletes are well taken care of with a top notch monitoring system and recovery..

Jon Joseph

Postpone to spring and there will be a different roster; draft eligible guys will be getting ready for the 2021 NFL draft.

Thank you Brent for the birthday thoughts, and for helping all of us see just how difficult the decision-making process is. I maintain that Rob Mullens is in a bad-or-bad position in that he must have a football season or go bankrupt as an athletic department, and if he does…UO is sure to get sued by either a player or spectator if he/she gets sick.

Not a good scenario for him.


First off, cheers to Charles as he climbs another rung on the ladder of wisdom!

Next I am more worried about the student athletes who are putting themselves at the greatest risk. It seems we hear too little about what is being done for these young men. The fans can always watch the games on tv, but the players have to be in close contact to prepare and then in even closer contact with a group of complete strangers.

I hope the Oregon Football Program has put together a world class testing system along with a state of the art tracing and isolation process. These student athlete’s deserve the best. I look forward to hearing about what is being done for the student athletes

I do agree any system for the fans is going to be fraught with controversy and safety concerns. The student athletes shouldn’t have to worry about that.

Jon Joseph

Great question regarding the health of the players; a # of players are asking the same question.

AS is also the case with a number of MLB and NBA athletes.


I agree with Haywarduck, not enough has been mentioned about the safety of the athletes. Football is, by definition, a contact sport. I do not believe there is any way to guarantee the safety of our beloved Duck football players. As such, I do not see how this season can happen without at the minimum a delay until a vaccine is developed. We, as fans, all have our desire to see the season played out, but we cannot let our desires outweigh the safety of the players. How would our fans feel if one of our team contract the COVID19 virus or, worse yet, die from the virus. If that happened, I could not ever look at a football game the same way I do now.

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

David….with all I have thought about all of this…I did not consider your last two sentences until now–and you are right. I would feel terrible and it would ruin Oregon Football for many of us.

I do not recall your comments before, so please continue to share your thoughts in this new venue. Thanks.


David, while I didn’t mention the outcome you took us too, that is exactly what I am concerned about. The Oregon Football Program has unbelievable support in academics, in rehabilitation of injuries along with the comfort of players. It only makes sense the program has quick response testing and a plan for their players.

If I was a parent I would expect this. Knowing how well run the Oregon Football Program is I expect they have this figured out, but the whole system needs to be set up.

Just because Oregon has a process doesn’t mean their first opponent, NDSU has an adequate one. If we are playing against a team without a good testing system the athletes are at risk. It is astounding to me, with the money at risk, the NCAA hasn’t put in place better guidance to ensure safety.


A ponder to end all ponders, Brent. The “rights” divide you mentioned above is one that I can’t understand. But it’s everywhere. As the NBA is planning to open its season in a “bubble”, many players were shocked, overwhelmed at the scope of restrictions that were placed on them, most were the same ones we have all became aware of; but the banning of ping pong hit them hard.

As for Autzen. I see problems. How would the 15,000 fans who could attend be determined? After that, how would the fan experience be? Will they be able to lose themselves in the game? I actually feel like the players would have an easier time adjusting to playing in an empty/ sparsely filled stadium than would the selected few in attendance.


Happy 4th of July my American friends!

And big happy b day to Charles!

I rewatched the Wash St game last night. Me thinks Miss St gonna toss some points up this year and frustrate some of the big SEC dogs. Those “coached up” 3 stars sure get open, seemingly, at will in that system.

Jon Joseph

Thank you Quack!

I do note that in 2019, in typical fashion, UW’s Lake shut the WSU O down. As did Air Force Academy (!) in the WSU bowl game.

Leach cursed Puddles with bad juju. The D’s he is about to face in the SEC? Especially, the SEC W?

David Marsh

The Leach system causes a whole lot of problems as it is a system that defenses don’t see every week so it does catch teams off guard. It’s a tough system to stop…

However… In all his years at Washington state Leach never beat Washington and never won a division championship, let alone a pac-12 championship.

It will continue to cause problems for many teams and disrupt teams as they make a run at a divisional chpionship… But I am incredibly doubtful Leach will lead a team to win the SEC west.


Yep Brent, that about sums it up. A no win situation, dammed if you do dammed if you don’t. No matter what is decided someone is going to be disappointed and upset. And in this age there is no going along with the decision. – – – This means war.

Jon Joseph


If all goes according to plan, I arranged for fireworks to be set off in your honor.