With the start of the 2021 fall football season just six months away, many college football fans are wondering if they’ll finally be able to attend games after taking a year off due to COVID restrictions. While there’s still uncertainty among the majority of the Power Five programs, half of the SEC programs are reportedly preparing for stadiums at full capacity by the time the season begins.
According to an article published by The Advocate, seven of the 14 SEC schools have stated publicly that they are currently moving forward with plans for full stadiums - LSU, Alabama, Texas A&M, Georgia, Kentucky, Arkansas, and Florida.
Not only does LSU Athletic Director Scott Woodward anticipate that tailgating celebrations will return to normal, he recently expressed his confidence in having 100,000+ fans back in Tiger Stadium in the fall. "I’m very optimistic about that," Woodward said during an interview in February. "I follow this COVID closely, and I like what I’m seeing from our state, from our local officials, from the federal government – all hands on deck. Everyone out there needs to get vaccinated, the sooner we can get back to some sense of normalcy. And I’m hoping in an optimistic way, we can get back to some of that - summer and definitely into the fall that we can have full stadiums."
Alabama Athletic Director Grey Bryne echoed that confidence in another recent statement.
This should come as no surprise given the fact that the SEC has been the most aggressive conference in terms of pushing forward amid the COVID pandemic. While the Big Ten and the PAC 12 opted to postpone their 2020 fall seasons, the SEC led the effort to continue on - modifying to a 10-game conference only schedule. With the SEC, Big 12 and ACC moving forward, the Big Ten and Pac 12 faced tremendous pressure to follow suit. The Big Ten would eventually begin its 8-game conference-only schedule in late October, with the Pac 12 opting for a 7-game conference-only schedule beginning in early November.
Once again, the SEC appears to be setting the tone for fan attendance this fall - at least for now.
At this point, there’s been very little talk from leaders within the Big Ten conference as to what they anticipate for stadium occupancy. Additionally, there are several factors at play - with conference leadership, university leadership and state representatives all playing a part in the decision making process. Though there’s growing confidence that a vaccine will become readily available to all Americans in the coming months, it’s still far too early to tell what the reality will look like once the fall season arrives.
Reality aside, the idea of seeing and experiencing jam-packed college football stadiums this fall is exciting to say the least. A white-out in Happy Valley, 'Jump Around' at Camp Randall, the lights turning on at Michigan Stadium to 110,000 fans creating a sea of maize - it's enough to give any college football fan goosebumps. Not only would it signal the return of what helps make college football so special, it would also signal the return to something that is increasingly rare these days - normal.