What organizer of Alabama-Miami football game said about future of neutral-site games

Nick Kelly
The Tuscaloosa News

Protocols for this year's Chick-Fil-A Kickoff game between Alabama football and Miami are in the process of being finalized, Peach Bowl Inc. CEO and president Gary Stokan told The Tuscaloosa News. 

Over this past week, they've been talking with the four teams involved in the kickoff games at Mercedes-Benz Stadium as well as stadium officials to get details on what they have done for Falcons preseason games and Atlanta United soccer games. 

"Once we have all that information, we'll be able to make a call based on what the protocols will be for this year's games," Stokan said. 

He expects those to be determined by Monday or Tuesday. 

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LSU and a few other schools have announced they will require either proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test to attend games this fall now that the FDA has given the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine full approval.

"We’re looking at everything potentially on the board ... " Stokan said. "You have to take everything into consideration and then make a call that creates an atmosphere that everybody is comfortable with." 

Stokan said they are planning on 100% capacity. They also have the ability to open the roof at Mercedes-Benz Stadium if they determine that's necessary. 

"We'll take all of that into consideration in our decision-making process," Stokan said. 

The game will be Alabama's last neutral-site game for the foreseeable future, what has long been a staple during Nick Saban's tenure as coach. Home-and-homes have become more popular in scheduling.

"We know that most ADs have expected that the CFP will expand the playoff," Stokan said. "So from their perspective, they are scheduling bigger home-and-home intersectional games because if they feel like with two losses, you could potentially get into the 12-team playoff if that’s the direction the presidents vote on in September moving forward." 

Stokan also understands that many want to bulk up home schedules for benefits such as season-ticket revenue, concessions, merchandise and more. 

So, Stokan has made an effort to get out in front and schedule neutral-site games through 2025. 

"I think you have to be creative," he said. "You have to be visionary. You have to be knowledgeable about what's going on. You have to create strong relationships."