College Football’s Pandemic Playbook: Fewer Fans, No Tailgating, No Bands

College Football’s Pandemic Playbook: Fewer Fans, No Tailgating, No Bands


Although some conferences and universities have written their own procedures, government officials ordered some limits. Last week, for instance, Reeves barred tailgating and set capacity limits for stadiums in his state, which includes three F.B.S. schools: Mississippi, Mississippi State and Southern Mississippi.

Reeves said that he issued his executive order after consultations with university presidents and athletic directors, but that in his judgment, “it’s the governor who has to sign the piece of paper,” not campus leaders. The decision to outlaw tailgating, he said, provoked the deepest skepticism, hardly surprising in a state where pregame parties are as much a pastime as the competitions themselves.

“One of our Achilles’ heels with respect to tailgating, and why I felt we needed to not allow it this year, was that we’re just too dadgum good at it,” Reeves said. With tent after tent erected outside stadiums, and oftentimes at least a dozen people crowded into each spot, he said, “it’s like one big bar scene” that would hardly be conducive to countering the virus.

And even though they usually miss most of the festivities outside the gates, players and coaches have spent the off-season considering what environments might await them inside, if they get to play at all.

Jack Wohlabaugh, a center at Duke, said he and some teammates had walked through an empty Wallace Wade Stadium last week on their way to practice and realized that game day might not be all that much louder. Days later, Duke said it would bar fans at the season’s start.

“We’ve kind of just got to adjust for what’s happening right now,” said Wohlabaugh, a redshirt senior who spent two seasons at Ohio State. “The general consensus obviously is, yeah, we want everything to be normal and how it is year in and year out. But due to the circumstances, we’re open to it all.”

He regrets the energy that will be lost, the spirit that so often defines college football and sometimes prompts teams to practice with pumped-in crowd noise. But if Wohlabaugh crouches in Durham or on the road, smaller or nonexistent crowds will almost certainly offer one benefit.

The snap counts will be a lot easier to hear.



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