Gameday traditions altered by COVID-19 concerns

Orange & White Nation

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE)- Gameday at Rocky Top looks a little different this year after COVID-19 concerns altered longstanding traditions.

Bob Kesling enters his 22nd year as the “voice of the Vols” and knows what a Saturday in East Tennessee looks like when the Vols play.

“A normal Saturday is so full of excitement and anticipation you kind of feel that buzz,” recalls Kesling. “Then you get on campus and they’re tailgating everywhere you got the Vol Navy and the Vol Walk, all those special things that make a day at Neyland stadium so different than other places around the country.”

The Vol Walk was started in 1990 by legendary Johnny Majors and the Vol Navy was started as early as the 1960s.

However in 2020, Saturday’s in the South here will look different.

  • There will be no Vol Walk with fans
  • Vol Navy will be limited
  • No University organized tailgating
  • No Smokey on the sidelines
  • No running through the Power T
  • Neyland capacity limited to 25%

“It will definitely be different,” said redshirt senior wide receiver. “It will be my first time ever playing in Neyland without all of the traditions, the things that we’re so accustomed to and the things we love.”

Depsite the changes, Kesling says every opening game he has been involved with has been special and this year will be no different.

The Vols opened their season on the road at South Carolina at Williams-Brice stadium where there were limited fans and linebacker Henry To’o To’o said after the game that “it might have looked empty but it was loud.”

While Neyland stadium will not be filled to the brim with over 102,000 people singing Rocky Top, there will be some fans.

“I think the fans that will be there, you know these are the ones that really want to be there and that they’re excited about seeing Tennessee football,” said Kesling. “So I think they’ll make noise.”

Fans attending the game will have to follow new rules and safety protocols to stay safe while watching Tennessee take on Missouri.

Despite gameday looking a lot different this year, the bottom line is there will be football and that’s the most important part of Saturday’s in the South.

“There are so many special traditions at Tennessee that makes it just a unique place to go to a game,” Kesling said. “We’ll miss all of that but we won’t miss football Saturday and I guess that’s the bottom line.”

“We’re just happy to get back in front of our fans and to get ready to play football in Neyland. I’m so excited. It’s been a long time coming. Those people (the fans) have been working as hard as us to make sure they’re staying safe so I can’t wait,” said senior linebacker Deandre Johnson.

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