The endless sea of school colors and the deafening roars of alumni and student body. The community-wide elation of beating your rival on a Saturday night and the collective sorrow in defeat.
There's nothing quite like the experience of a college football game.
That is what the sports community is in jeopardy of losing this fall because of the coronavirus. Without college football or even just a shell of it, it will be a stark contrast to what has become the norm. And no one quite captures the moments and the emotions than ESPN's College Gameday.
"For our show, it will be a tremendous difference" Gameday host Rece Davis said on 'Late Night with Locks.'
Typically the show is known for large, never-ending crowds. Hilarious signs and celebrity picks are reoccurring elements. Just like the sport, not everything will be the same.
For years the show has been the center of college football and its culture. It never misses a beat and always travels to the heart of the weekend matchup, even if it's to a smaller FCS school in a rivalry game. Novices that sit on their couch on a Saturday can feel right there through GameDay.
Those moments, those memories are how the sport stands out from its professional counterpart on Sundays and several other sports around the country. That emotion carries over to the stadium and creates a unique, symbiotic relationship between the crowd and the players on the field.
It simply can't be replicated anywhere else.
Right now, Davis says ESPN and the show are operating as if the college football season is held. But, they are making several contingency plans depending on how the public health situation develops.
As the name of the show indicates, they want to be on campuses if possible. Smaller venues are an option, especially if there are limitations on their crowd size. And yes, even having College GameDay without fans is an option.
"That seems almost blasphemous given the history of the show, but if that's what it takes to keep people as healthy as possible then obviously we will comply with that," Davis said.
There's no doubt whether you're at home or a fan that gets to attend as part of a sparse crowd that it will be a strange experience. Even the players will have to adjust. Home-field advantage may not have the same weight as it typically holds.
"Players sort of pick up on the energy in the stadium. You make a big play, a big pick, a big stop on third down or get a big conversion on third down, people start generating momentum. What's that momentum going to be like without the same level of noise and vibe in the stadium that you're used to? I think it will be a challenge for some," he said.
But nonetheless, Davis knows that having college football games, even without fans, is better than the alternative. Everybody could use a little bit of the joy that the sport brings right now.
"I think it would be better for everybody, the country, the psyche, everything if we can do it safely and have the sport even if we have to limit the number of fans. And I'm not going to lie, it's going to be weird. The atmosphere in college football is what sets it apart," Davis said.
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