BYU Football creates unique game-day experience for home opener

BYU Football played its first home game of the season at LaVell Edwards on Sept. 26, facing off against the Troy Trojans without a single fan in the audience.

BYU Athletics took steps to try and adapt to the new game-day atmosphere by creating a “Virtual Cougar Walk” to greet the players and placing cardboard cutouts in the stands.

The Virtual Cougar Walk replaced the usual tradition of fans lining up to greet the players and coaches as they arrive at LaVell Edwards Stadium prior to the game. This year, the athletic department set up a large video board and invited fans to greet the team via Zoom.

Players wave at fans on the video board as part of the “Virtual Cougar Walk” prior to the home opener against Troy. Fans greeting the players through Zoom created some semblance of a game-day atmosphere for the team. (BYU Photo)

Players and coaches waved at the video board as they passed by, creating some semblance of a fan connection for the Cougars.

In addition to the video board, the athletic department placed cardboard cutouts of notable BYU alumni and Utah sports figures in the east stands to fill in somewhat for the lack of fans.

BYU Football placed cardboard cutouts of notable Cougars and Utah sports figures, including Taysom Hill, Jimmer Fredette and Donovan Mitchell. The cutouts filled in for at least a portion of the missing fan section. (BYU Photo)

The cutouts included BYU figures like Jimmer Fredette, Taysom Hill and Jamaal Williams, as well as Utah Jazz stars Donovan Mitchell, John Stockton and Karl Malone.

BYU coaches Mark Pope, Jennifer Rockwood, Heather Olmstead and even Cosmo the Cougar were also featured in the stands as cutouts.

A pre-recorded national anthem was played before the game and the Cougars exited the tunnel carrying the traditional flags with smoke shooting out on either side of them. Music and fake crowd noised were piped in over the loudspeakers to create some hype in the empty stadium.

The Cougars take the field for the home opener against Troy without fans in the stands. The team still carried flag and were accompanied by music and smoke as they exited the tunnel. (Caleb Turner)

Personnel on the field was very limited during the game, with just players, coaches and other staff members allowed, all wearing masks. TV cameras were placed behind the end zones and in the empty stands, but all other press members were required to remain in assigned seats in the press box. The press members were socially-distanced and also required to wear masks at all times.

The Cougarettes and BYU Cheer Squad did not attend the game, but a pre-recorded performance from the Cougarettes filmed on the field was broadcast during a timeout to provide some entertainment for the teams and media members.

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