PROVO — A short time after BYU announced that fans would not be allowed to attend the next two football home games at LaVell Edwards Stadium due to the state of Utah moving Provo from low (yellow) to a moderate (orange) risk COVID-19 designation, defensive tackle Lorenzo Fauatea tweeted at Gov. Gary Herbert.
“Just wanted my mom and dad to watch, bro,” the former Hunter High star posted on Twitter, summing up not only his sentiments but plenty of his teammates’ thoughts as well.
As of 6 p.m., Fauatea hadn’t heard back from the governor, but he wasn’t holding his breath. The Cougars are resigned to the fact that they will play in an empty stadium against Troy on Saturday and Louisiana Tech on Oct. 2.
“I don’t know if (Herbert) has gotten back to me, but yeah, at first I was a little upset, just because all the players want their families, especially, to be at their games and watch their sons and all the hard work and sacrifice they put in,” Fauatea said. “But it is the new world that we live in now and today, and we just have to go with it and it is what it is. We are just lucky and blessed that we still have the opportunity to play.”
For BYU linebacker Pepe Tanuvasa, it was the last half of a double-whammy. Having transferred from Navy, Tanuvasa wasn’t able to play in front of any of his former fans on Sept. 7 in Annapolis, Maryland, because no fans were allowed in Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium that day.
“We were a little bit disappointed, I think it is fair to say that,” Tanuvasa said Tuesday night in a Zoom teleconference with reporters. “But at the end of the day, we are just grateful we have the opportunity to play football on Saturday. And so we are looking ahead to the game, keeping that in mind. There are a lot of teams around the nation who aren’t playing, so we are one of the lucky few that gets to suit up and show what we have to offer. We are just keeping that in mind.”
State of Utah announced Tuesday it has moved Provo from low to a moderate risk COVID-19 designation. In accordance with the updated restrictions, BYU will play its next two home games against Troy and LA Tech without fans in LaVell Edwards Stadium.
— BYU Cougars PR (@BYUCougarsPR) September 22, 2020
Both players said they and their teammates and coaches are doing all they can do to spread the message that if the Provo-Orem area isn’t moved back to a low risk designation, then subsequent games against UTSA, Texas State, Western Kentucky and North Alabama could be played in an empty LES as well.
Worse, the games could be canceled or postponed, as BYU’s scheduled Sept. 19 game at Army was.
“I would just say, ‘Just be smart with everything going on,’” Fauatea said. “Us football players would love to play football in front of everyone, so just to be smart and think of others.”
Defensive coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki has been too busy preparing for Troy’s explosive spread offense to worry about the crowd count, which was supposed to be 6,000 before Tuesday’s decision. But he said not having families in attendance will be another adjustment in a year full of them since the pandemic hit in March.
“It is always hard because you like to have a full stadium, but that’s just the reality that we live in so we are going to have to deal with it,” Tuiaki said. “… We would love to have any amount of people there, even if it was just families of players. That is probably one of the things that is hurting them the most, is a lot of them have friends that were planning on coming.”
Obviously 6,000 fans can’t make the kind of noise that 60,000 fans can make, but BYU is still giving up a good chunk of its home-field advantage with Tuesday’s edict.
“Any fans that you have that are making noise, it contributes to the momentum and the way things go. It is definitely going to affect that aspect,” Tuiaki said. “Same thing as at Navy, we just got to make sure we have our guys on the sidelines geeked up and ready to cheer on their teammates. And for guys that don’t take any snaps they need to bring value, whether it is bringing juice or energy and just being there as part of the cheering squad.”