The Morning Journal (Lorain, OH)

Fans head back to stadiums

- By Eric Olson

College football fans headed back into stadiums Saturday, some of them for the first time in two years. Along with binoculars, sunscreen and other essentials, some packed face masks and proof of vaccinatio­n.

With the availabili­ty of COVID-19 vaccines, the pomp and pageantry of fall Saturdays are expected to return in all their glory nearly everywhere across the country.

As far as Nebraska fan Capp Anson of Omaha is concerned, it beats the alternativ­e. Last season, the Big Ten and Pac-12 allowed no fans and ACC, Big 12 and SEC teams limited stadium attendance to a fraction of their vast capacities.

“It’s nice to be able to sit and watch it on a big screen TV at home and have the bathroom by you or go grab a cold beer if you need to, but to me there’s nothing like the experience­s at the stadium,” he said. “It brings out a good time for sure.”

Anson’s Cornhusker­s were among the handful of teams kicking off their seasons Saturday, losing 30-22 at Illinois in front of 41,064. UCLA was hosting Hawaii in the only other game involving a Power Five conference.

Schools are eager to let the good times roll again after the massive financial hits they took in 2020.

Power Five teams bring in an average of $18.6 million annually from football ticket sales in a typical year, according to research by Patrick Rishe, director of the Business of Sports Program at Washington

University in St. Louis. Top teams that play in the biggest stadiums generate more than twice that.

Rishe said he expects the surge in COVID-19 cases tied to the more easily transmissi­ble delta variant to prevent a full return to normal. He noted most college football season ticket holders are over 50, a group more susceptibl­e to becoming seriously ill.

“I don’t expect revenues will return to pre-pandemic levels even in the best of circumstan­ces this year,” Rishe said.

Coaches and players are happy to have fans back, especially in leagues where games were played in empty stadiums a year ago. Colorado coach Karl Dorrell said the home

team’s defense feeds off the crowd’s energy.

“So we’re excited about everything being back to normal from that standpoint, having the stands back and having Folsom Field back and rocking,” he said. “I think our players will be inspired on both sides of the ball from that, but it definitely helps the defense, there’s no question.”

Hawaii will not allow fans when it hosts Portland State next week because of a Honolulu ordinance barring large outdoor gatherings. No other school has announced an attendance limit, though specific attendance rules differ across the country.

San Jose State asked fans to show proof of vaccinatio­n

when they entered the stadium for a game against Southern Utah. Unvaccinat­ed fans, or those who can’t prove they’ve been vaccinated, were let in but were required to wear masks at all times.

LSU, Oregon, Oregon State and Tulane have announced proof-of-vaccinatio­n requiremen­ts starting with their home openers next month. LSU will allow unvaccinat­ed fans the option of showing proof of a negative COVID-19 test in the previous 72 hours.

The Oregon schools and Tulane also mandate fans wear face coverings at all times, even though they play outdoors. Many schools have told fans they must wear masks while indoors at their stadiums.

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