Iowa State Cyclones

Iowa State thankful to be kicking off football season Saturday, even without fans

Cyclones don't think different environment will affect them against Louisiana

Jack Trice Stadium will be empty Saturday when the Cyclones host Louisiana at 11 a.m, (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
Jack Trice Stadium will be empty Saturday when the Cyclones host Louisiana at 11 a.m, (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

AMES — Iowa State followers tout themselves as loud, boisterous, passionate fans who show up during the good times and bad.

But they can’t show up Saturday at 11 a.m. to Jack Trice Stadium due to the university reversing its decision to allow fans at the first game.

Iowa State will host Louisiana and the only thing the few people in attendance will hear are the cracking of pads and teammates and coaches shouting from the sidelines.

It will be surreal.

“Yeah, I don’t really know what the environment’s gonna be like,” Iowa State tight end Dylan Soehner said. “I’d assume it’s going to be somewhat of a really intense practice feel but we don’t really have to do anything special to prepare for that. We’re kind of built for stuff like that.

“We always make a joke that we could show up and play on the side of a highway and that’s basically what we’re doing.”

Coach Matt Campbell hasn’t made the lack of fans a point of emphasis. In fact, he hasn’t really brought it up to his team at all.

“Honestly, I would say I’ve probably put zero thought into not having fans in the stands,” Campbell said. “To give you a really good answer, I don’t think I’d be able to, because the sport is the sport, right? For me, you’re talking to a guy that played Division III football (at Mount Union) and there were a thousand people in the stands. The intent, the attitude, the effort, the energy — that was never lacking, because when you do put the ball (down), our sport is a very violent sport.

“When the ball gets laid down and the whistle blows and you step in between the white lines, I don’t know if you really notice if there’s one person in the stands or 60,000 people in the stands.”

Iowa State will try to pipe in some version of crowd noise. It’s using a website where fans can “cheer” in real time.

On Tuesday, Louisiana Coach Billy Napier was still trying to figure out exactly what Iowa State was going to do for noise during the game. Would it have canned, generic crowd noise? Would it play music? It’ll be intriguing to see how this solution plays out.

“Not having fans in the stands is the ultimate test of your real purpose and your intangibles,” Napier said. “For our team, we’re excited to play, what some people think, is a frontrunner for the Big 12 Conference (title). This is an outstanding program that has a terrific track record and has an outstanding leader in their head coach.

“I think more than anything, we’re just excited to play against a really, really good football team. That’s more of the challenge for us than the environment.”

The physical and mental hurdles both teams have had to overcome since March — whether it was COVID-19 testing or not knowing if you’re going to play — have been taxing.

Campbell said he could sense a calmness come over his program when the Big 12 officially announced football would be played this fall.

Iowa State and Louisiana did their part to keep players healthy — Iowa State athletics director Jamie Pollard tweeted on Friday that zero Iowa State players tested positive during the Big 12 mandated Friday tests and Louisiana got “clearance” from the Big 12 testing agency for its Friday tests as well.

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Football is going to happen on Saturday in Ames — no matter what the stadium atmosphere is like.

“I really haven’t put much time or thought into what that will look like or feel like because I really think, ‘Man, we’ve sacrificed so much to get to finally play a sport and play against somebody else,’” Campbell said. “I think just the joy of that occurring and knowing what we’re playing, I certainly think is motivation enough for probably both teams.”

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