Vince Tyra’s confidence is tempered by caution. He thinks the college football season can be completed, but he knows it to be tenuous.
The University of Louisville’s athletic director is counting on your cooperation.
“We’ve really got to have fans partner with us for Week 1, or Week 2 may not even happen, Week 3 may not happen,” Tyra said Wednesday afternoon. “We’re not taking any game for granted. We’re living in a day-by-day environment, in my mind.”
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Three days before the rescheduled start of U of L’s football season, Tyra led a media tour of Cardinal Stadium to reassure fans that the appropriate precautions and protocols are now in place to allow 12,000 spectators to attend Saturday’s game against Western Kentucky without inordinate worry about the COVID-19 consequences.
That is contingent, of course, on those spectators taking the precautions and protocols seriously; that they remain mindful that their conduct could determine whether college football continues in 2020 or is abruptly shut down.
Read this: Louisville football prepares for its season opener against WKU in COVID-19 era
U of L has done its part. With additional gates, extensive signage, electronic ticketing, socially distanced seating configurations, cash-free concession stands and monitors on duty to regulate bathroom capacity, Tyra and his staff have gone beyond the consensus best practices for dealing with the pandemic. His team has gone so far as to tear down a ticket office and a retail store to create more points of entry for fans notorious for arriving late from their tailgate parties.
Tailgating, too, is out — at least temporarily. Tents, grills and generators are forbidden. Masks will be required. Parking lots will open three hours before the game instead of the standard five hours, and stadium gates will open 90 minutes before kickoff instead of 60 minutes to create less congestion and allow for temperature screening.
Some of these measures might seem excessive to libertarians, science skeptics or, as Tyra put it, “those who are uneducated about the process or been asleep for six months.” Still, it’s better to be a bit of a buzzkill than to get careless with a lethal virus. Better to put Cardinal Stadium on modified lockdown than to risk placing more people in intensive care.
May Scott Satterfield’s defense be as diligent as Tyra’s safety protocols. May the 76 Football Bowl Subdivision schools still planning on playing this fall take a similarly aggressive stance.
At home?: How to watch Louisville football open the season against Western Kentucky
“I feel pretty good because of the data we’re seeing and the tests that are coming back across the country,” Tyra said. “Particularly for the (Atlantic Coast) conference. I’m on two calls a week, and we’re talking about where we are. There are a lot of zeroes (for positive tests). Based on where we are today, I feel pretty confident we’re going to get a season in. But I’m not naïve to the fact that now we’re going to take on a new environment. It’s called travel.”
As players emerge from carefully controlled environments and are exposed to individuals who may not have been held to stringent standards, circumstances can shift from tenuous to untenable in the span of a sneeze. Friday’s scheduled game between Texas Christian and SMU was postponed after an unspecified number of TCU players and staff tested positive for the coronavirus.
There are bound to be more disruptions as this most uncertain of seasons lurches forward.
“Forecasting with any precision is a fruitless exercise,” Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby said on a Zoom media call on Monday. “We could find ourselves in the same situation as the Big Ten and the Pac-12 are in later in the season. We are not injecting any bravado about it.”
U of L’s bravado was largely confined to the Cardinal Stadium scoreboard Wednesday afternoon. While Tyra faced the cameras with his back to the field, the stadium’s high-def displays showed Louisville leading Western Kentucky, 30-0, with 10:48 left in the first quarter.
The opponent: What Western Kentucky is saying about Louisville football before Saturday’s matchup
That scenario would seem highly unlikely. But if 2020 has taught us anything, it is rule nothing out except the routine.