As the clock hit zero and Virginia beat Virginia Tech 39-30 to break a 15-game losing streak to the Hokies, UVa faithful stormed the Scott Stadium field. Emotions were high in Charlottesville as the Cavaliers finally beat their bitter rival last fall.
Don’t expect thousands of fans rushing the field in celebration in 2020.
Both Virginia and Virginia Tech anticipate a limit of 1,000 fans per football game, according to current Virginia guidelines on large gatherings.
“That would probably be just the families of our players and the families of our coaches,” UVa head coach Bronco Mendenhall said. “That probably gets us to that number. And we’re a family first, last, always program so that would be in alignment.”
Mendenhall shared Friday that it’s likely UVa won’t find a replacement for VMI to open the season. That could lead to an opening week game against Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. The rivalry will be renewed less than a year after the Wahoos took down the Hokies in a thrilling matchup at Scott Stadium.
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The heated rivalry will certainly be different in 2020.
In addition to potentially opening Virginia’s season, the game will be drastically altered by COVID-19. Players who test positive for the virus the week of the game will be held out, as will close contacts due to contact tracing protocols.
Additionally, the usually intense rivalry will miss the thousands of screaming fans who make the rivalry so special.
As the ACC football season inches closer, teams are sharing general expectations for fan attendance. It varies wildly across the conference, leaving some schools with potential home-field disadvantages.
UVa’s five road opponents offer an interesting blend of allowed attendances.
Sept. 19 at Virginia TechIt’s unclear if the Hokies will follow the Cavaliers’ idea of allowing mostly family members of coaches and players in the stands, but, like UVa, Virginia Tech anticipates a seating limit of 1,000 people.
Guidelines may change by mid-September, which could allow more people to attend the contest. If the guideline stays the same, the Cavaliers and Hokies will compete for the Commonwealth Cup in Lane Stadium in front of roughly 65,000 empty seats.
Oct. 3 at Clemson
The Clemson Insider reported this week that Clemson was looking at allowing roughly 16,000 fans at games this fall, which would be just below 25% of Memorial Stadium’s capacity. While that report is not official, the ballpark number checks out.
The University of South Carolina announced Thursday that it expects about 20,000 fans per game this fall. State officials approved the plans for South Carolina. With a stadium seating capacity similar to South Carolina’s, the reigning ACC champions will likely receive a similar plan to their in-state rival. Expect approximately 15,000-20,000 people at Clemson games this fall.
That’s a dramatic decrease from a typical game, but it still offers Clemson a larger home-field advantage than UVa’s attendance limit of 1,000.
Oct. 17 at Wake ForestPhase II of North Carolina’s reopening lasts through Sept. 11. Phase II allows spectators at sporting events. Unfortunately for fans, the spectator limit must also follow the outdoor space gathering.
That’s capped at 25 people.
Given the Oct. 17 start date, there’s a chance North Carolina loosens those restrictions prior to UVa’s road contest at Wake Forest. Currently, however, the Cavaliers wouldn’t face much of a road crowd when playing the Demon Deacons.
Oct. 24 at Miami
According to reports from local Miami news outlets, the Hurricanes are still working with Hard Rock Stadium to determine exact seating capacity limits.
The stadium holds 65,326 people typically. Florida and Florida State are looking at approximately 15-25% of capacity for their home games. If Miami followed a similar path as their in-state rivals and went to 15% seating capacity, it would allow roughly 10,000 fans.
With the game a few months away, the health of the Miami area and local restrictions could impact allowed crowd attendance.
Nov. 28 at Florida StateFlorida State shared a couple weeks ago that home games will adhere to social distancing guidelines, which will likely limit seating capacity to 20-25% of a usual home game. Doak Campbell Stadium holds 79,560 people.
The Seminoles will likely bring 15,000-20,000 people to home contests.
Interestingly, the program also plans to allow tailgating for home games. FSU announced tailgating guidelines earlier this week. It’s unclear if tailgating will still be allowed by the time UVa visits Tallahassee in late November.
“If we as a Seminole family cannot create a tailgating environment that protects the health and safety of each other, it may be necessary to revisit this approach,” FSU athletic director David Coburn said in a news release.