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Badgers will plan for full crowds at Camp Randall in 2021 football season
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Badgers will plan for full crowds at Camp Randall in 2021 football season

The University of Wisconsin is starting with an ambitious goal in planning for the 2021 football season: The Badgers want to welcome back a full house to Camp Randall Stadium.

"If we're going to spend the time to plan for something, let's plan for bringing a ruckus back into Camp Randall and bringing our fan base back," deputy athletic director Chris McIntosh said.

UW played the 2020 home football season without fans in attendance because of the COVID-19 pandemic, losing out on millions of dollars in ticket revenue.

The athletic department said in an email and video to donors Thursday morning that it plans to have fans back next season but isn't sure how many.

McIntosh told reporters later Thursday that UW will plan as if it won't have number limitations other than the 80,321 capacity and will change its approach if needed because of continuing coronavirus restrictions.

University of Wisconsin deputy athletic director Chris McIntosh discusses the Badgers' football ticket plans on Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021. Video courtesy UW Athletics.

"I don't want hopeful and optimistic to be confused with reckless," he said. "We want to take a responsible approach to that."

UW is scheduled to open a seven-game 2021 home season Sept. 4 against Penn State. The Badgers also have Big Ten home games scheduled against Michigan, Iowa, Northwestern and Nebraska as well as nonconference games against Eastern Michigan and Army.

Games against Michigan, Nebraska and Iowa have been among the most-attended events at Camp Randall in the last 15 years.

"We really don't know how many people we'll have in the stadium, but we do know we have a great schedule," UW athletic director Barry Alvarez said in a video message with the email sent Thursday morning. "We're really looking forward to getting people back in the stands."

McIntosh said safety will guide decisions on how much of Camp Randall will be open next season. The athletic department has invested in upgrades at the stadium to limit the number of things fans have to touch.

UW also will introduce an electronic ticketing system for the 2021 season that McIntosh said will limit further the potential for passing items back and forth.

The optimistic approach for 2021 mirrors how the campus is planning ahead, McIntosh said, but it isn't locked in.

"This entire almost-12-month experience now has been pretty humbling," he said. "Many people have been proven wrong on their predictions on what the world might look like and when. So we're going to avoid doing that.

"We're going to plan for what we think is the most ambitious approach knowing that if we have to pivot off that and scale down and scale back, that's probably an easier direction to move than to try to scale up."

The athletic department plans to offer season ticket buyers who aren't comfortable returning to the stadium the option of a gap year for 2021 in addition to regular ticketing options, McIntosh said.

Season ticket renewals will begin in mid-March. McIntosh said it hasn't been decided yet how fans will be prioritized if the stadium capacity is less than the number of tickets sold.

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