At Virginia Tech, senior associate athletic director Brad Wurthman is so excited for the possibility of football fans returning to Lane Stadium this fall, he says jokingly that he’ll pay to put a roof on it “just so we can blow the damn thing off on Sept. 3.”
At USC, athletic director Mike Bohn said he heard from the school’s marching band on a weekly basis last fall, pleading to be able to return to games or practices or a send-off — anything — to help the Trojans. Bohn said he is hoping state and local restrictions will soon loosen so everyone can return to the Coliseum this fall, including, of course, the school’s iconic noble steed, Traveler.
And at Auburn, starting left guard Tashawn Manning is clinging to the possibility that he’ll be able to walk off the team bus at the corner of Donahue Drive and Samford Avenue and be greeted by a “sea of fans” waiting for the Tiger Walk again.
“That’s one of my favorite traditions Auburn has,” he said. “As you’re coming down the street, you get to see all of the fans cheering you on, and everybody has your back. It’s just a good boost going into the game.”
After a 2020 season during which COVID-19 wreaked havoc on college football, everyone could use a bit of a “boost” this fall. With exactly 100 days remaining until the first fall college football games kick off on Aug. 28, college football players, coaches and athletic administrators are anticipating a season of Saturdays that resembles the normalcy of 2019.
All 10 FBS conferences and their medical advisory groups are reevaluating the protocols they established last summer — routine testing, mask mandates, quarantines and contact tracing — a myriad COVID-19 rules that could now be reconsidered or in some cases fully rescinded with high vaccination rates.
ESPN spoke to more than a dozen stakeholders, from commissioners and athletic directors to coaches, players and medical advisors about the state of the game in 2021. While testing will remain in some capacity, the focus has shifted to vaccinating teams and educating them about the process. Other priorities include planning for full-capacity crowds and ushering back traditions — all while continuing to follow the guidance of state and local regulations.