The 2020 school year has officially begun at Iowa State University, and it's full of uncertainty and plenty of understandable changes for students due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Whether it be a surge of online classes, wearing face coverings inside campus buildings or reduced dining hall options, students knew coming back to campus this fall would come with new rules and expectations to which they must adhere (while some follow more than others).
After Iowa State Athletic Director Jamie Pollard released an update on fall sports and new procedures in place for Jack Trice Stadium on Friday, it became a real possibility that students might not be able to attend home games this fall and partake in the traditions associated with college football.
The Iowa State Daily talked with three Iowa State students and asked them about their feelings toward all of the new guidelines in place for football this fall.
Among all of the students who were interviewed, the idea of safety was the first priority for all of them, even if it comes at the expense of having the full college experience this fall.
Alexander Fisher, a junior in political science who transferred from Des Moines Area Community College to attend Iowa State University this fall, said personal safety needs to outweigh watching sports right now.
If Iowa State Athletics ends up following Fisher's sentiment and options to have no fans this fall, it would mean he would have to wait longer to cross off a big item on his bucket list: attending his first Iowa State home football game.
Fisher said all of the new regulations that Pollard announced Friday were fair and necessary, given the state of affairs of COVID-19 in Iowa and across the country. A feeling of disappointment rather than anger is Fisher's mindset when it comes to all of the restrictions that will be in place for football this fall.
“I understand it, but it sucks, it really does," Fisher said. “I’ve never been to a Cyclone football game, and that was something I was hopefully going to take off my bucket list this year, but it is what it is.”
The atmosphere of a college football crowd is as part of the game as the referees and offensive linemen in Fisher's mind, so without the piercing sound of 60,000 fans cheering the teams on, the games will no doubt be a different experience. That being said, Fisher said the absence of crowd would not take away from his enjoyment of the game itself.
Amel Bajramovic, freshman in software engineering, feels the same when it comes to personal safety.
"I think top priority right now is to be safe rather than to attend these games," Bajramovic said. "I think all students should have those same values."
Bajramovic is currently pledging to Phi Kappa Theta and said the traditions of heading to Jack Trice Stadium and tailgating with friends are deeply rooted in Greek life at Iowa State.
“It’s something all of us want to do because everyone goes to college to have that fun experience, but it’s something we have to control and stay home,” Bajramovic said.
Some of the safety precautions for fans who might attend games this year include a full-time mask mandate for all at Jack Trice Stadium, as well as limited concessions available for purchase.
But for Bajramovic and Fisher, if it comes down to the safest option for the public or being able to attend games, missing out on a big part of Iowa culture, like college football, will have to wait. Bajramovic said he did have student tickets but recently canceled them.
“I think it will be a big heartbreak for many students and families, but it’s something we have to adapt to," Bajramovic said.
Another freshman who might go without experiencing a home football game this year is Kaitlyn David, an open-option student.
David said she would not have attended a home game this year anyway but said this year might have to be a sacrifice for everyone. David said if fans are cleared to enter, cases of COVID-19 could see a spike.
“If they do have spectators, it could be a bigger chance of spreading the coronavirus around," David said. "I think it is better to have no fans at all.”
In Pollard's letter to fans, the no-fan option would allow family and friends of the players to attend games in person, an idea that all three students would feel comfortable with.
“I think that would be fair, honestly, because those athletes are putting in a lot of time and effort into it; that would be pretty meaningful to have your family up close and see it," Fisher said.
No matter if fans are allowed into games or not, some students are cautiously optimistic that Iowa State students can keep COVID-19 under control, while some aren't so confident.
“Especially seeing what happened this weekend with '801 day,' I just don't think people can give it up even for a semester," David said.
“There is hoping, but who knows?” Fisher said.