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Empty Stadium Will Provide Unique Challenge for Duke Football

Lack of noise could impact playcalling, motivation for players

Duke will not have fans in the stands for at least the first part of its football season. That will take some adjustment for players.

One of the more obvious adjustments will be not having their families, many of whom are mainstays at Duke games at home and on the road, in the crowd watching and cheering.

“My mom was asking how she could sell pretzels or something to get into the stadium,” quarterback Gunnar Holmberg said.

The school is offering fans the chance to purchase a cardboard cutout to put in the stands, similar to what many MLB teams are doing. That may be the closest Duke players get to seeing a familiar face.

“I could see some cardboard cutouts of the Holmberg family in there real soon,” he said.

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On the field, the lack of crowd noise also offers additional challenges.

“I think you have to (consider) that teams might hear your calls,” Holmberg said. Normally, huddles and instructions at the line are drowned out by the noise produced by fans in the stands. In an empty stadium, it will be much easier to hear.

“One big thing we’re thinking about is coming up with different words, so teams can’t catch on to what we’re doing and get a jump on us based on words we’re saying,” Holmberg said, “because it’s not going to be loud, they’re going to be able to hear us.”

Players also won’t get to feed off the energy from a supportive crowd, or even a hostile one.

“Just having superior focus,” he said, “having to find motivation from ourselves and our teammates. We’re not really counting on crowd noise to do that. That’s the big thing we’ll have to figure out as we go about this try to figure out this weird time. At Virginia Tech last year, just running out of the tunnel, guys just almost blacked out (from excitement). It was a surreal moment for them. We have to find ways to do that within ourselves, within our energy, whether through videos or playing music or whatever.”