TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) -The University of Arizona’s football team lost its season opener Saturday, Nov. 14, at home to USC, but the unique atmosphere nearly overshadowed the thrilling game.
Unique is the best way to describe this atmosphere - there were no fans allowed inside the stadium because of COVID-19 precautions so it made for a quiet season opener for quarterback Grant Gunnell and company.
“It was a little weird looking up and not seeing that many fans. It kind of was like a high school game,” said Gunnell.
“For me it was like a large practice,” said Tanisha Tucker, a parent of a USC football player.
Arizona Stadium can hold about 57,000 fans, though the empty seats seemed never ending, serving as a reminder of the times. Just a few parents were allowed inside the stadium to watch the game.
“I thought that there was some energy early because of families being there,” said Kevin Sumlin, Arizona’s head coach.
In addition to parents in attendance, the fake crowd noise pumped in through the loud speakers helped make the atmosphere seem somewhat normal. But, at times, the noise cut out, at those points it was so quiet, people could hear players talking on the sidelines.
“It was still really exciting but it was just quieter,” Tucker said.
Beyond the lack of fans, there were other noticeable differences, the Pride of Arizona Marching Band and Cheer team were not in the stands. Instead, the stadium’s video board broadcast them live from a nearby practice field. But, despite all of the changes, the Wildcats were just happy to be back on the field.
“Felt great to be out there to hit people,” Gunnell said.
The Wildcats will head northwest to take on the University of Washington next Saturday.