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Fans in the stands? Some students weigh in on it

Fans at the 2019 season opener against Wisconsin. Spectators are expected to be allowed at USF home games starting Oct. 10. ORACLE PHOTO/BRIAN HATTAB

It’s no secret college football will look different this season. One thing that’ll have a big impact on the gameday experience — the number of fans in attendance.

For USF, the plan is to allow fans at Raymond James Stadium starting with the homecoming game against East Carolina on Oct. 10, pending approval from state and local officials.

Spectators may be allowed at Bulls games soon, but that’s if Bulls fans are willing to go.

For some students, they’d be willing to do what it takes to make it to games, even if it means social distancing, wearing masks and limited access to stadium facilities.

Madison Masterson, a graduate student studying marketing, said she wouldn’t mind wearing a mask and practing physical distancing at games if it meant attending them.

“I love USF and my community. I would always do what’s best and safest for everyone,” Masterson said in a message to The Oracle.

Some fans, however, think the risk of having fans in attendance is too great.

Veronica Sierra, a senior studying mass communications, said having a season with thousands of fans in attendance could lead to a situation like the spring where sports were canceled and students were sent home for the remainder of the semester.

“I feel like because of irresponsible students partying and going to games, cases will increase drastically and everyone will be forced to go home early and campus will be shut down again,” Sierra said in a message. “It’ll be like last spring semester all over again.”

Cases flaring up as a result of fans at games is a possibility, something that USF tried to avoid in the spring when sports were initially shut down in March. Originally, it was announced that games would be played without fans, but things changed when spring sports were canceled the very next day.

Shannon Randy, a general studies senior, said she wouldn’t mind social distancing but would rather watch games from home if she had to wear a mask.

“Socially distance or sit in certain sections, yes. Mask probably not during the hot months,” Randy said in a message. “Would likely just watch it on TV if there were a mask mandate.”

Having fans at games would would create too much of a risk of shutting down again, said Kaelyn Mills, a second-year student studying health sciences and communication sciences and disorders.

“Too many universities have already closed down. I don’t want to have to move back home [because] of [a] careless gathering causing an outbreak,” she told The Oracle.

Sam Sklar, a senior pursuing a psychology major and a chemistry minor, said he hasn’t been to many football games and this would be his last chance to go as a student.

“This is my senior year and to be honest, I haven’t been to many games … my girlfriend is a huge USF football fan, and I wanted to take her to games,” Sklar told The Oracle.

As for safety, Sklar said he’s been cautious and uses an N95 mask with a cloth mask over it.

Sarah Strike, a senior studying psychology and music studies, said she personally knew people who were hospitalized because of coronavirus and thinks it’s best to avoid the risks.

“Even if the students are healthy and at a low risk of catching it, it can still spread to others through people without symptoms,” Strike said in a message. “I think it might just be wise to have a semester where we take a break, so we can slow the spread of the virus until a vaccine becomes available.”

USF is preparing coronavirus prevention measures to ensure the safety of fans, but those haven’t been announced yet.

If it’s decided that fans wouldn’t be allowed at games, the gameday experience won’t be the same.

Randy said she’ll miss watching live games the most.

“I love USF games. I can’t wait until live events are back,” she said. “I can live without the tailgates, just want to see the game.”

Masterson said she’d no doubt be disappointed but understands USF has to make a decision with health and safety in mind.

“I would be very sad, as I love football, but I understand that USF has to do what’s safest for everyone,” she said.