An eerie feeling fell over Albertsons Stadium on the evening of Oct. 24. Without having Bronco Nation in the stands, all that remained were photographers, non-suited football players and cardboard cutouts of fans.
After a blowout in the first half, Utah State started to come back after halftime. However, the Broncos held their opponents until the end beating the Aggies 42-13.
“I miss our fans, that’s one thing that I got to say,” said quarterback Hank Bachmeier. “Coach Harsin has done a great job of preparing us for how it’s gonna be, but it does feel weird without having the fans on The Blue.”
Since the Mountain West announced on Sept. 24 that football would be returning to the field, the Broncos have been preparing to get back on The Blue.
“Overall, just the opportunity to compete was exciting,” said Head Coach Bryan Harsin. “To even run out there and see another opponent and know that we have a chance to go play football.”
Weeks later, Boise State announced that no fans would be allowed to attend the first game of the season. Although many were excited about the return to football, fans were not thrilled about the no attendance policy.
Family and friends of the team were upset that they wouldn’t be allowed to enter the stadium either. Barb Whimpey, senior linebacker Rylie Whimpey’s mom, created a petition to allow the families of Boise State football players, coaches and staff to attend games.
The petition is requesting a solution from Governor Brad Little, former Athletic Director Curt Apsey and Boise State President Marlene Tromp. Their goal is 2,500 signatures and they are currently at 2,255.
“We need to get our families in the stands,” Whimpey said. “There’s no reason why they shouldn’t be there. There’s safe protocols that we can put in place to allow them to be there, so that’s the next step we need to take to get them there.”
Many were worried about the impact of not having fans in the stadium. The Corral, Boise State’s student section, is solely responsible for 38 forced false starts since 2018. Many questioned if football on The Blue could be played the same without that ecstatic energy Bronco Nation provides.
After kickoff, the atmosphere in the stadium immediately started to pick up. Loud music, recordings of a cheering crowd and highlight reels replaced typical cheers, screams and cries.
As the game progressed, Boise State’s sideline started to cheer up. Players started jumping up and down, whether out of excitement or to regain warmth.
According to Whimpey, a positive to having no fans in the stadium was that you could actually hear the offense better.
Although they tried to simulate the electricity of a typical game, there were still moments where the stadium got quiet. At one point, a play was being reviewed and everyone fell silent. Not a sound in the stadium was made.
Without fans, silent moments may occur multiple times throughout the season., and the feeling was not the same as having a packed house on game day.
“Everything leading up to the game, that was a focus to us of just trying to keep it as normal as we could,” Harsin said. “With not having fans there and not having that energy and that build up, that was a challenge and I felt like our guys handled it really well.”
Boise State’s first game was an experience unlike any other. Until fans are allowed back, the stands of Albertsons Stadium will remain a ghost town.
The Broncos will be on the road next week against Air Force, but will return home to compete against rival BYU on Nov. 7.