COLUMBIA, Mo. — It's officially safe to say that football atmospheres across the country will have quite a different feel this season.
With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to influence how sports and society function across the nation, programs in the SEC have announced reduced capacities in addition to other precautions to prevent the spread of the virus.
Driving from our hotel directly off of campus to Memorial Stadium, traffic was no issue for fellow staff writer Tyler Martin and myself. Streets that would usually be packed with bumper-to-bumper cars and trucks scurrying to secure their spots before the game were almost empty.
In fact, we drove on South Providence Road—a road directly adjacent to the stadium—and were barely hindered by other cars.
Upon parking our car and walking to Memorial Stadium—about a 15-minute walk from the media lot—we came across a grand total of five fans: four Missouri and one Alabama.
We stopped and spoke with the one Crimson Tide fan we came across, and while she wished to remain anonymous it was pretty obvious what her sentiments regarding a lackluster game day atmosphere would mean for the rest of this season.
She said that this wasn't her first time in Columbia to see Alabama play against Missouri, and the contrast between her last trip and Saturday's game was like night and day.
“This is like a funeral,” she said. “I mean, this is so depressing. There’s no fans anywhere. Usually it’s full of life and lots of college kids running around. I haven’t seen a college kid yet today.
“Streets are jam-packed with cars. There’s hundreds, no, thousands of people walking around tailgating. This is lifeless.”
Sporting an Alabama filtered mask, the fan expressed her reason in coming to Missouri despite the evident risk of contracting the virus.
“I haven’t missed a game in 23 years,” she said, obviously grinning underneath her mask."
Seeing a limited-capacity SEC stadium for the first time in person was quite jarring. However, this is Missouri.
Alabama director of athletics Greg Byrne announced earlier this summer that Bryant-Denny Stadium would be filled at roughly 20% capacity. In addition, tailgating on the Quad has also been banned for the season.
While this addresses the issues inside the stadium, this does not answer the questions surrounding students and other fans congregating at bars and restaurants around the area, particularly The Strip.
The Alabama fan admitted that due to the restrictions and reduced capacity, she doesn't expect much difference in the stadiums, but there could potentially be a stark contrast between the night life off-campus.
“I think it will be super similar to this because we have just as many restrictions at home,” she said. “Police are out in force so I’m sure that’s going to be even more at home. I’m anxious to see the strip—how that affects—because I know there’s a line out the door down there right now.”
Check out these photos of Columbia taken less than two hours before kickoff: