KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Football is almost back in Rocky Top. Tennessee opens up its season on Thursday at Neyland Stadium against Bowling Green; kickoff is set for 8 p.m.
Earlier this summer, the university announced the stadium will operate at full capacity. That’s a big difference from last year’s home games, which were limited to a crowd of just 25% because of the pandemic.
But COVID cases are still surging – so is it causing Vols fans to rethink game day plans? For some that we spoke to, yes. Others are still on the fence about what to do, and then there are some who can’t wait to get back in Neyland.
“I am so excited. I’m a sophomore, so it’s only my second game as a student that I’ve been able to go to, because last year with COVID and the restricted amount of capacity,” UT student Katelyn Vanzant said.
“I’m a little nervous with COVID because there are so many, it’s full capacity, we haven’t had that in a while. So I’m a little nervous about that, but I’m excited to all be together and get to cheer on the Vols,” said another student, Caroline Eatherly.
The excitement is evident, but it’s also clear conversations about Thursday aren’t COVID-exempt. For some fans though, the concern isn’t a deal-breaker.
“I am fully vaccinated and I know that if I do feel threatened, I will just put my mask on,” Vanzant said.
“I’ve had COVID. I’ve had the vaccine, I try to eat healthily, take vitamins, stay active. So I feel like I’ve done the best I can to protect myself, and I want to get back to doing the things that make life special and make going here special, and I think this is one of those things for me,” said UT student Cole Middlebrook.
Still, one Vols fan in Alabama, Shannon Davis, canceled her hotel reservations and is no longer making the trip to Tennessee for safety reasons.
“If they have cold symptoms and they think it’s just a cold or an allergy and it’s really COVID and spreading it, then I didn’t want to take those chances,” Davis said.
Then there are some like Abby Ann Ramsey. She says she keeps changing her mind about taking in Vol football inside the stadium.
“I’m not feeling great about going,” Ramsey said. “I’m excited to experience it for the first time in college but my plans could change based on what it looks like tomorrow.”
The University of Tennessee will not require proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test to get into Neyland.