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Here’s why BYU’s homecoming football game Saturday vs. UTSA will be played without fans

Because the current moderate (orange) risk COVID-19 designation for Provo is not expecteed to change this week, BYU officials announced Tuesday that no spectators will enter LaVell Edwards Stadium for the third straight game.

Lavell Edwards Stadium on the Brigham Young University campus in Provo
Lavell Edwards Stadium on the Brigham Young University campus in Provo is pictured on Wednesday March 11, 2020. No fans will be in the stadium Saturday when BYU hosts UTSA.
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — BYU’s homecoming football game against the University of Texas at San Antonio will be played without spectators in attendance at LaVell Edwards Stadium, the school announced Tuesday.

Citing the same policy that was in effect for the Cougars’ first two home games played without fans in the stands — a decision based on the current moderate (orange) risk COVID-19 designation for Provo and the belief that it won’t change this week — BYU issued the statement four days before kickoff.

There had been some hope that fans would be allowed in Saturday, especially after athletic director Tom Holmoe said during a roundtable discussion with reporters last Friday that talks with state and county health department officials were ongoing.

The announcement did say, “With a continued effort to lower the case count in the community and current trends at BYU improving, the university hopes to have fans in the stadium on Oct. 24 versus Texas State.”

On Monday night, Holmoe publicly responded to a fan on Twitter who expressed frustration that the only “fans” who have been allowed in the stadium have been cardboard cutouts people can purchase, while there have been reports of large indoor gatherings in the Provo area.

“If you don’t believe I want supportive, loud, happy BYU fans that give our Cougs a huge home field advantage and help in a BIG way finance our program — you’re wrong,” Holmoe wrote. “No conspiracy theory. Just Gov and state trying to do the right thing for all. Can hardly wait though!”

Asked about the possibility of spectators, or at least family members, cleared to watch Saturday’s game in person, head coach Kalani Sitake said it would be nice but the Cougars weren’t counting on it.

“I would like to see our fans there. I think it would be fun to have the players’ families and fans represent,” Sitake said. “You have seen it a lot in different areas. But our guys are used to (no fans). If not, we will have to keep doing what we have been doing. We have had three games without fans. We will just have to keep the passion and the excitement going.”

BYU’s opener at Navy was also played without fans at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, Maryland.

At least one family member took to social media Tuesday to express disgust with the decision.

“As a parent this is super upsetting,” wrote Jeni Romney, mother of BYU quarterback Baylor Romney and receiver Gunner Romney. “Haven’t been able to watch my boys play in person yet this year! Every other college allows spectators. It’s not BYU’s fault. It’s the Utah government!”

Utah reported 716 new cases and six new virus-related deaths Tuesday as the state continues to struggle to slow the spread of the contagion.

Meanwhile, Sitake said Monday he has been pleased with the way his players have handled the pandemic, and noted that in the last two weeks positive tests have been significantly lower than when the Cougars had to postpone their Sept. 19 game at Army because of an outbreak.

“We are not going to be worried about not having fans in the stands,” he said. “We are not going to be worried about anything but being focused on UTSA and trying to do everything we can to get a competitive advantage during the week of preparation and practice and hopefully things go our way when we match up against UTSA on Saturday.”