Oklahoma football: OU fall football will include fans, but fewer of them

AUBURN, AL - NOVEMBER 23: An Auburn Tigers fan in the stands prior to their game against the Samford Bulldogs at Jordan-Hare Stadium on November 23, 2019 in Auburn, Alabama. (Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images)
AUBURN, AL - NOVEMBER 23: An Auburn Tigers fan in the stands prior to their game against the Samford Bulldogs at Jordan-Hare Stadium on November 23, 2019 in Auburn, Alabama. (Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images) /
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Oklahoma football has played before 129 consecutive sellouts at Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium.

That dates back to the beginning of the 1999 season, Bob Stoops’ first in an 18-year run as head coach of the Sooners.

That consecutive sellout streak will be snapped when Oklahoma plays host to Missouri State on Sept. 12 (check your listings; this is the third different date for this year’s season opener). Until just recently, it appeared there would not be any fans in the stands for the 2020 season opener, or that there would even be a season.

Oklahoma publicly announced on Wednesday that it is going forward with plans to play football this fall, despite announcements to the contrary by the Big Ten and Pac-12. The Big 12 also released its revised 2020 season schedule.

Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said the issue of fans in the stands and stadium capacity are being left up the individual member schools in accordance with local and state health ordinances.

The OU athletic department said it plans to limit capacity at Sooner home games this season to about 25 percent because of the continuing coronavirus pandemic. At Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium that reduction amounts to approximately 21,000 fans.

“The capacity reduction will allow us to create distancing in the seating bowl,” OU athletic director Joe Castiglione said in a news release posted on the athletic department website. “Other policies in the stadium will be introduced as we alter our operations as a result of the COVID-19 virus.”

“This is the next step in our preparation efforts,”  Castiglione said, “but it is by no means the only step. We have been and will continue working on protocols that will be in place for our student-athletes, staff and patrons.”

The athletic department began sending communications to season ticket holders on Thursday to determine how many games they planned to attend this season. Oklahoma has five scheduled home games in Norman in 2020. OU is also the designated home team for the annual Red River Showdown game with Texas on Oct. 12.