CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — No fans in the stands has almost become the norm watching games on television the past several months. From the NBA and NHL bubbles, to the MLB and NFL stadiums all empty on game days, it’s an adjustment for all. And that includes the players, who have are used to playing in front of thousands of screaming fans.
The Big Ten announced last week no fans will be allowed at games this fall. The only people at the games will be family members of the players and coaches, along with team and university personnel. Crowd noise will likely be pumped in to make it seem more real, like we’ve seen and heard for professional sports, but it won’t be the same, especially at places like Wisconsin, Nebraska, Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan. Those stadiums are normally packed full with 80,000+ fans every week.
“That’s one you got to mentally prepare yourself for,” Illinois senior safety Tony Adams said. “No fans being there, I don’t know how it is…more like a scrimmage I guess. We got to go and play ball because Wisconsin is going to come to play.”
“Having like 60-70,000 fans in the stadium to now having none, it’s definitely going to be something to adjust to,” Illinois junior Sydney Brown said. “But at the end of the day, we’re just playing football, so we’re going to have to come with the same energy we do every single day, and just go out there and play and give it our all.”
Illinois Chancellor Robert Jones and athletic director Josh Whitman made it clear in their remarks last with on a Zoom call, the virus isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. So instead of waiting around for it to completely go away, both say we need to find a ‘new normal’ and carry on with sports and our lives.
“As a society, we have to learn how to live in this environment,” said Whitman. “And I think that sports continue to spread that needle of looking for ways, for all of us, to get back to some degree of normal, and some degree of regular life.”
“I wish we didn’t have to do this but if we are going to continue to keep our levels low, we have to mitigate large gatherings,” Jones said.