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Students brace themselves for an ‘absolutely electric’ night at Scott Stadium

Cavalier fans are more excited than ever for full capacity, in-person football

In periods of anguish and tragedy, sports serve a unique purpose — they create a sense of hope which unites people beyond physical distances, societal boundaries and individual identities. As the world is still in the midst of a devastating pandemic that has taken millions of lives in rapid succession, many have turned to sports as a means of escape from the scuttle of daily life. Accordingly, sports teams were forced to adapt to COVID-19 restrictions, while fans were forced to watch them play from afar.

“Watching sports and seeing empty stadiums felt eerie,” Graduate Batten student Caleb Tisdale said.

That sentiment reverberated throughout the sports world for months until restrictions were loosened. For Virginia sports, some fans were permitted to watch the Cavaliers compete in person last year and now, new regulations are in place. In accordance with University policies, masks are still required for vaccinated and unvaccinated fans attending a game when they are in indoor spaces like the restrooms and elevators. Additionally, unvaccinated fans are required to wear a mask for the duration of any event, whether inside or outside, and everyone is encouraged to wear a mask at all times to limit the potential spread of COVID-19. Given all of this, though, Virginia Athletics has fully relinquished its capacity restrictions at its athletics facilities — permitting fans to attend all home games at full capacity. At Scott Stadium, this means that 61,500 fans could potentially fill the bleachers and the hill. Finally, the days of empty stands are over in Charlottesville.

For fourth-year Architecture student Mohammed Mohammed, “it means a lot to be able to watch in person sports again.” As an upperclassman, he had the pleasure of watching Virginia sports in-person for a year and a half pre-pandemic — something the majority of the undergraduate student population can’t say.

“To know that there are going to be in-person games means a lot to me because U.Va. sports games are part of the whole U.Va. experience,” Mohammed said. “The last two years, it hasn’t been possible obviously because of the pandemic, and I personally wondered if there would be any in-person games before I graduated.”

Fourth-year College student Taylor Phillips expressed similar concerns for her last year as an undergraduate.

“When the pandemic hit in the middle of my second year, I didn’t know when I would get back to normal life,” Phillips said. “Looking back, I know that was kind of a selfish mindset, but it was hard to have so much of my life stripped away, while also handling the stressors that came with the start of a literal pandemic … I’m just so glad that we got past a lot of that in time for my last year here and I’m ready to finish strong and make memories with my friends — like, really ready.”

As the first home football game approaches for the Cavaliers, Phillips sits with orange and blue beaded bracelets adorning her wrist that read “CVILLE FOREVER” and “GO HOOS,” preparing herself for “a day that [she] won’t forget” and one that will be “absolutely electric,” in the words of second-year Engineering student David Mead.

Others, like fourth-year Education student Haley Wright, have even gotten emotional over the return of in-person sports. Wright recalls sitting in class at Ridley Hall this week and receiving an email from Parking and Transportation warning students about heavy traffic on game day. At that moment, she “just became too happy and overwhelmed,” her eyes turned red and she began tearing up.

While Mohammed, Phillips, Wright and others from the 2022 and 2023 classes are ready to add to their mental bank of memories as students cheering for the Cavaliers, some are preparing themselves for an entirely new aspect of their college experience.

Students in the 2024 and 2025 classes have spent the last few weeks at their first in-person college classes — albeit, masked — following some time in a strange hybrid version of either high school or college.

“It will be my first semester on Grounds where I will get to experience the tailgates, games and other fun that comes with the live sports,” Mead said.

For these students, the absence of in-person sports has been challenging as they recognize what a large role athletics play at the University.

“Not having in-person sports … made it difficult to really feel like a part of the U.Va. community last year,” second-year College student Sidney Hubli said.

Watching from their own homes for the last 19 months, these fans only imagined what live games would be like. This weekend, they’ll get to experience the pinnacle of Cavalier camaraderie — a nighttime football game against William and Mary. 

“Night games at Scott Stadium are really special,” Tisdale said. “There’s always a sense of excitement in and around Scott Stadium … especially when you’re walking towards the stadium and you can hear the crowd and marching band inside.”

As the Cavaliers prepare to take on the Tribe Saturday night, fans are getting ready for what’s set to be an incredible night of football, fun and fellowship.

“I’m sure Scott will be rocking come Sept. 4,” first-year College student Zach Carey said. “The build-up in Charlottesville and among the student body is coming to a crescendo and I can’t wait to be in that atmosphere in that stadium.”

The first of seven home games for the Virginia football team is set for 7:30 p.m. Saturday — a game dubbed the “4th Side Orange Out.”

“I’m just ready to throw my arms around strangers and sing the Good Ol’ Song,” Phillips said. “To me, that’s what college is all about.”

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