Packed stadium awaits Bulls in home opener against Gators

The majority of student tickets available have been claimed, with under 3,000 left. ORACLE PHOTO/LEDA ALVIM

Raymond James Stadium will welcome Bulls fans back for the first home regular-season game Saturday, as the Gators make the trip from Gainesville to Tampa for a 1 p.m. kickoff.

It will be the first game since the 2019 season where USF will be playing in front of a home stadium at full capacity. 

Raymond James has a total capacity of 65,890, and as of Friday morning, less than 700 public tickets were available for purchase and less than 1,000 student tickets were available to be claimed, according to a tweet from the @USFFootball Twitter account. In total, 13,000 student tickets were reserved for the matchup against the Gators.

The amount of people together in one area has caused concern for some students like senior Cameron Davis who said he is worried about the potential spread of COVID-19 and the delta variant, but also excited to return to a level of normalcy.

“I’m a little worried about COVID, given the delta variant situation and the stadium most likely being packed,” Davis said. “Yet at the same time, I’m excited that things are going back to normal. I can’t wait to be in a stadium full of USF fans again.”

Raymond James has deployed a number of cleaning upgrades and stadium modifications to foster a safer and healthier environment at the game. For example, an enhanced sanitizing regimen and over 700 hand sanitizing stations and portable wash stations have been placed throughout the venue, according to the stadium’s website.

The stadium has also gone touchless, as well as cashless. Meaning places such as bathroom facilities, water fountains and certain doors will be accessible without touch and cash will not be an accepted form of payment at the concession stands.

Both vaccinated and unvaccinated attendees are recommended to wear masks, per Raymond James Stadium’s website, but not required. Although the stadium has put these precautions in place, some fans said they will still be wearing a mask.

“I do plan on wearing my mask for most of the game, but due to the heat and consumption of food and drinks during the game, I probably won’t have it on as much as I’d like,” senior Zachary Weber said. “I have taken home COVID test kits that I plan to take before and after the game, as well as being fully vaccinated.”

Masks will be mandatory, however, on the Bulls Blitz, a service put together by Student Government (SG) that provides students with bus rides to and from the game. SG is able to mandate masks on the buses because student organizations are permitted to put their own COVID-safety measures in place.

Buses are on a first-come first-serve basis both to the stadium and back. The first bus will leave the Marshall Student Center bus loop area at 10 a.m. Saturday, according to Assistant Director of SG Advising, Training and Operations Jennifer Bielen.

To head back to campus, buses will start being loaded at the beginning of the fourth quarter to cater to fans who may want to leave early. After that, the remaining buses will leave shortly after the end of the game. To make the buses back, students must head straight to the appropriate bus loop right after the game ends, Bielen said.

Not only will face masks be required to be worn on the buses, social distancing will also be mandated. Additionally, all students wishing to ride the bus must bring a phone with the capabilities to scan a QR code for contact tracing purposes.

Once at the game, fans have the opportunity to not only enjoy the football performance being put on display, but also the Herd of Thunder (HOT), USF’s marching band. Since the game falls on the same day as the 20th anniversary of 9/11, HOT will team up with UF’s marching band to observe the occasion.

“Together at halftime, the bands will celebrate the spirit of New York City in a medley of New York-themed songs including ‘On Broadway,’ ‘Empire State of Mind’ and “New York, New York,’ followed by a student-created video memorial,” Assistant Director of Bands Tina DiMeglio said.

In addition to HOT’s performance, the American flag will be presented by representatives of the Army ROTC, led by SFC Jonathan Benton. While the flag is being presented, “Taps” will be played by students Carly Scholz of USF and Connor Rodriguez of UF. The performance will conclude with both bands playing “Amazing Grace” and “America the Beautiful.”

As a way to honor the victims, Associate Athletic Director of Communication Brian Siegrist said players will also be wearing a 9/11 sticker on their helmets and there will be a moment of silence before the national anthem.

The game will be televised on ABC and broadcast on 95.3/620 WDAE/iHeartRadio Bulls Unlimited.