Coronavirus, Soccer, Sports

Empty stands will provide unusual experience for all BU sports

Though Boston University plans to reopen in the Fall, unprecedented changes to academic and campus life will likely make their way into on-campus sporting events as well. No official decision has been released by the University or Athletics Department, but the likelihood of seeing fans at sports games in the Fall is slim.

President Robert Brown said in a June 4 higher education panel that he “cannot see fans in the stands in athletic events” due to social distancing and other health protocols.

Empty stands at Boston University’s Nickerson Field. Come Fall, fans may not be able to attend sports games for public health reasons. COURTESY OF GREENSTRAT VIA WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

With many quarantine rules across state lines, Brown said it would be difficult for Terriers to travel to the campuses of other Patriot League teams.

“We don’t see that today, at this point in time, as feasible,” Brown said in the panel. “So, you may see a very different set of athletic affiliations in the Fall running through this pandemic than you’ve seen before.”

Nickerson Field’s nearly 10,000 seats, as well as New Balance Field’s 500, will most likely be empty, quiet and emotionless in the Fall — an odd scene to imagine. 

In various ways this will have an effect on the players, coaching staff and the community surrounding the fall sports teams.

Men’s soccer head coach Kevin Nylen said the inability to play in front of fans, friends and family will have a mental and emotional impact on the team. Nevertheless, Nylen’s message to the team remains consistent.

“We play to represent BU men’s soccer. We play to represent the beautiful game,” Nylen said. “So whether that means there’s one person, 500, 5,000, it shouldn’t really change.”

Because they practice on Nickerson without spectators, Nylen said he is confident the team will be able to adjust if fans are prohibited from attending.

“We train every day and it’s just us, we’re in the locker room every day and it’s just us,” Nylen said. “With that being said, I know that it is more exciting. There is a little bit of an adrenaline rush.” 

Sports psychology studies have shown that live games with considerable crowd noise are favorable to the home team. 

Nylen said his team wishes to get back on campus as soon as possible, despite not being able to play with packed stands. The anticipation is high, he said, not only for the return to the sport, but to reconnect with teammates, the campus and college life.

“That excitement far exceeds the one factor, the downside, of maybe not playing in front of family or friends,” Nylen said. “That’s going to be more of a focal point than, say, do they play in front of somebody else?”

The change would be unusual not only for the players, but for the BU Bands as well.

Aaron Goldberg, director of athletic bands, said there is a possibility of the pep band sending smaller groups to the games, or even performing virtually. He said the group could pre-record music to be played over the jumbotron at games, keeping energy at sporting events.

“We will be visible,” Goldberg said. “We will be audible, and nobody can squash our school spirit, so it’ll still be very prominent.” 

Pep Band Manager Victoria Paspalas, a rising senior in the College of Fine Arts, said even if the band is able to provide virtual liveliness, it will still be a strange experience for themselves and the players.

“I think we’ve really come to enjoy how we play a part in the gameday experience,” Paspalas said, “and so the idea that we might not physically be there in person is a bit daunting to think about.”

Students have voiced their disappointment in the possibility of not being able to attend sports games, but also said that it will not hinder their support for BU sports or their overall school spirit.

Daniel Nejaime, a rising sophomore in the Questrom School of Business, went to every men’s soccer home game last season. He said both the sport and the community of fans attracted him to support the team. 

“A fanbase really makes or breaks a sporting event,” Nejaime said. “I think that no sporting event is what it is without fans.”

Melinda Stackpole, a rising sophomore in the Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, wrote in an email that she will continue to support BU’s teams, even if she’s unable to be physically present.

“I am still completely full of Terrier pride,” Stackpole wrote. “You can count on me and my roommate sitting in our dorm on game nights watching the games virtually in all of our terrier gear, cheering on our fellow Terriers just as we would have in person.”


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