The Tennessee Volunteers play their first home game of the season on Oct. 3 when the Missouri Tigers come to Neyland Stadium for a noon kick-off.
A game day on Rocky Top will be a welcome sight in a time of such uncertainty. However, due to COVID-19, it will look very different compared to what fans are used to.
One of the biggest changes for the upcoming season is the seating capacity which will allow only 25% of Neyland Stadium to be filled with fans. According to the ticket plan released by the University of Tennessee, Tennessee Fund donors with season tickets and current UT students will have priority to 2020 football tickets. Tickets will be offered as season tickets to Tennessee Fund members based upon their annual donation amount and ranking order.
The student seating process will remain mainly the same as students will be able to request tickets for the first home game on Sept. 23. Guidelines for the student seating section and the number of tickets dispersed among students will be determined by the Office of Student Life. All fans will be required to wear masks while in the stadium.
Opposing teams will be allocated 500 tickets for their families.
Tennessee Athletics will use a completely mobile ticket entry system this season. The contactless entry will be efficient and sanitary for everyone involved in the game-day experience.
Tailgating is a game day tradition that has fans flocking in droves to campus hours before kickoff; however, COVID-19 restrictions will make it very different this year.
University-sponsored tailgating will not occur this year, but fans will be able to have small gatherings with some restrictions according to guidelines released by University of Tennessee Athletic’s department. Parking lots will open four hours before kickoff and only permit holders may park on campus on game day.
Gatherings will be restricted to family members or people who plan to sit together inside the stadium in their individual seats. Fans are encouraged to wear masks except when eating during their gatherings and are required to wear masks inside the stadium. Finally, each vehicle is allowed one tent. Tents larger than 10-foot-by-10-foot pop-ups will be prohibited. Tents can’t block parking spaces or block entrances and exits in parking areas.
The City of Knoxville has also announced that tailgating downtown will not be allowed at any city-owned parking garages or surface lots. Knoxville Area Transit will not have game day shuttles, and bus capacity will be reduced to 50%.
The Vol Navy will also have new restrictions to follow set forth by the city. Vol Navy boats can only be stacked two deep at city-owned sites like Volunteer Landing and the Vol Navy docks downtown. Boaters will now only be able to dock for 24 hours, and the city only wants football game ticket holders to be docked on game day. The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency will patrol and make sure the precautions are being followed by all involved.
The SEC announced in new guidelines that only essential personnel will be allowed on the field. Essential personnel consists of coaches, players, officials, law enforcement and a limited amount of media. This means fans will miss out on some historic Tennessee traditions. The Pride of the Southland Band will not be forming the T before the game or be allowed to perform during halftime, at least at the beginning of the season. It is currently unclear whether the band will be in the stands during the games.
The Vol Walk will also most likely be canceled this season in an effort to continue social distancing and keep the game day experience as safe as possible. Cheer and spirit squads will also be absent from the sidelines this fall as they don’t fall into the essential personnel category. Smokey will be noticeably absent from the sidelines this season due to the new SEC guidelines.
As this season will look noticeably different from what fans are used to, one thing remains the same: it’s football time in Tennessee.