Gov. Phil Murphy said it’s still early — but that, if he had to predict today, there will not be fans in the stands for Rutgers football games this fall.
“Right now, we’ve got a limit of 500 people on outdoor gatherings,” he said. “If you ask me to make the decision or the prediction right now, my guess is that it doesn’t change.”
Murphy made the comments Monday morning on the Scarlet Spotlight, a podcast about Rutgers hosted by Rutgers alums Danny Breslauer and Jon Newman.
Murphy said the decision wasn’t “cast in stone,” before rattling off a number of reasons why he’s leaning that way, including the fact COVID-19 is raging around the country.
“If I had to predict, my guess is you’re going to have a very limited ability to have folks in the stands,” he said.
Rutgers, which already has eliminated the non-conference portion of the schedule, is now set to open its Big Ten slate on Sept. 26 in Columbus, Ohio, against Ohio State. Its first home game would be Oct. 3 against Illinois.
Later Monday, Rutgers athletics released a statement saying all venues will operate in accordance with executive orders — including the 500-person limit.
“We understand and support the governor’s decision based on health and safety guidelines,” the statement said. “Athletic department officials will continue to monitor any changes to public health guidelines and adjust accordingly. Additionally, the Big Ten Conference announced earlier this month a plan to move fall sports to a conference-only schedule. Details regarding such schedule shall be forthcoming.”
The school said season-ticket holders will receive information from the Rutgers Ticket Office regarding the next steps and options for their account.
Murphy did address why pro and college teams might be exempt from the voluntary 14-day quarantine for some out-of-state visitors.
“The exemption isn’t for NFL teams and college teams, per se, it’s what we deem to be essential business,” he said.
Murphy said the state wants to be to accommodate such teams, but he said he will only do so if he is comfortable with their testing and safety protocols.
“The hope would be that there would be a very explicated testing regime,” he said.
He also suggested there could be situations where entire teams may not travel — and that includes New Jersey-based teams traveling outside the state — should an outbreak occur.
“I think we’re going to have look at that on a case-by-case basis,” he said.