Oct 16, 2021; Knoxville, Tennessee, USA; Tennessee Volunteers linebacker Byron Young (6) tackles Mississippi Rebels running back Jerrion Ealy (9) during the first half at Neyland Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bryan Lynn-USA TODAY Sports

Tennessee officials apologize after chaos vs. Ole Miss

Tennessee chancellor Donde Plowman said she was “sickened” by the conduct of home fans Saturday night in the Volunteers’ loss to Mississippi — behavior that caused a stoppage of nearly 20 minutes as fans threw water bottles and other objects onto the field in the closing minute.

“I am astonished and sickened by the behavior of some Vol fans at the end of tonight’s game,” she posted to social media after the game. “Good sportsmanship must be part of who we are as Volunteers. Behavior that puts student-athletes, visitors and other fans at risk is not something we will tolerate. I will be calling (Mississippi) Chancellor (Glenn) Boyce in the morning to offer my personal apology on behalf of the University of Tennessee and discuss what we can do to make this right. Neyland Stadium has always been a place for families, and we’ll keep it that way.”

With 54 seconds left, after officials ruled Tennessee’s attempt to convert a fourth-and-24 play failed by about a yard, fans began throwing things onto the turf. Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin, the former Volunteers coach, was hit by a golf ball in the arm. His players put on their helmets for safety, the Tennessee cheerleaders, dance squad and marching band filed out, and the student section was cleared.

Tennessee got the ball back and had a chance to score in the waning seconds, but backup quarterback Joe Milton, with the ball at the Ole Miss 21, couldn’t find an open receiver and ran, falling 8 yards short of a score as time expired. Ole Miss won 31-26.

Tennessee athletic director Danny White also said he apologized to his counterpart at Mississippi.

“Our Tennessee fanbase had much to be proud of through 59 minutes of football Saturday night — they created one of the best live sporting event atmospheres I’ve ever experienced — but what transpired in the game’s final minute was unacceptable.

“While I’m incredibly proud of our team’s effort on the field, I’m disappointed that their relentless performance was overshadowed in the game’s closing moments by the actions of several fans whose actions did not represent the Volunteer Spirit or the true character of our university.

“On behalf of the University of Tennessee, I’d like to apologize to the Ole Miss football program and congratulate their student-athletes on a hard fought win. I spoke with Keith Carter after the game and expressed the same sentiment to him.”

–Field Level Media

Apr 29, 2021; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; An Indianapolis Colts fan pose for a picture before the 2021 NFL Draft at First Energy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Colts become final NFL team approved for full capacity in 2021

All 32 NFL teams now have clearance to host crowds at full capacity for the 2021 season.

The Indianapolis Colts announced Tuesday they received approval from the Marion County Public Health Department to host games at 100 percent capacity for the upcoming season. Lucas Oil Stadium seats 63,000.

In May, NFL executive vice president Peter O’Reilly told reporters that 30 of the league’s 32 teams had received approval from state or local health authorities to return to full-capacity stadiums in the coming season, after the COVID-19 pandemic forced teams to restrict fan access to games in 2020. Some teams did not host fans at all in 2020, while others operated with a drastically reduced capacity.

The two teams that still needed approval were the Colts and the Denver Broncos. Denver announced earlier this month that it had been cleared for full capacity.

“We were fortunate to be able to host fans in 2020 through the pandemic, and those fans were as loud and proud as ever,” Colts owner and CEO Jim Irsay said in a statement. “But game days at Lucas Oil Stadium are like family reunions, and it wasn’t quite the same without our entire Colts family alongside us.”

–Field Level Media

Sep 14, 2020; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; A general view of MetLife Stadium during the first quarter of the game between the New York Giants and the Pittsburgh Steelers. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

MetLife Stadium to allow 15 percent capacity for Jets, Giants

Dec 22, 2019; Seattle, Washington, USA; Seattle Seahawks offensive guard Mike Iupati (70) walks off the field with quarterback Russell Wilson (3) following a first quarter injury against the Arizona Cardinals at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy announced Monday that MetLife Stadium can welcome fans back at 15 percent capacity starting March 1.

The East Rutherford, N.J., home of the NFL’s New York Giants and Jets holds 82,500 fans, meaning about 12,375 spectators would be allowed to attend.

The Giants and Jets played their 2020 home games without fans due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“As the months go on, we are hopeful that the data will continue to be positive and the number of people allowed into MetLife Stadium will steadily increase,” read a joint statement issued by the Jets and Giants. “The health and safety of our fans, players, staff, and those in our communities remain our top priority and we will continue to follow the guidance of Governor Murphy and state health officials.”

The Giants finished 6-10 and the Jets were 2-14 during the 2020 campaign.

–Field Level Media

Jan 31, 2021; Tampa, Florida, USA; A general view of signage for Super Bowl  LV at downtown Tampa Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Super Bowl LV to have 25,000 fans, 30,000 cutouts

Super Bowl LV will have 25,000 fans and 30,000 cutouts in attendance at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday in Tampa, the NFL announced Tuesday morning.

That first number, which serves as the smallest audience in Super Bowl history, is still an increase over the 22,500 the league previously had stated would be in the stands. Among the crowd on hand will be 7,500 health-care workers who have received the vaccine for COVID-19 as guests of the NFL.

The decision to allow fans to attend Super Bowl LV was made in accordance with public health officials, the Florida Department of Health, and area hospitals and health care systems. Florida does not have an attendance limit for sporting events during the coronavirus pandemic.

Per an NFL spokesman, fans will be presented with masks and hand sanitizer prior to entering the game pitting the Buccaneers against the Kansas City Chiefs.

Fans will be required to wear the face coverings throughout the game.

–Field Level Media

Jan 3, 2021; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Washington Football Team quarterback Alex Smith (11) passes the ball against the Philadelphia Eagles during the third quarter at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Washington won’t allow fans for wild-card game

The Washington Football Team said it will not allow fans to attend its NFC wild-card game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Saturday in Landover, Md., due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Our entire team, especially our players, will miss having our passionate fans in the stadium as we take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers,” Washington said in a statement. “We are grateful for all of the support from our community and encourage everyone to stay safe.”

Washington claimed the NFC East title and its first playoff berth since 2015 with a 20-14 victory over the host Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday night to finish 7-9.

The Washington Football Team didn’t allow fans to attend regular-season games until releasing about 3,000 tickets for a Nov. 8 game against the New York Giants.

Washington said the team’s decision to prohibit fans for the playoff game was because it wanted to follow the “continued restrictions from the State of Maryland and Prince George’s County regarding limitations on gatherings due to COVID-19,” according to the statement.

–Field Level Media

Dec 19, 2020; Denver, Colorado, USA; A general view of the  Buffalo Bills helmet before game against the Denver Broncos at Empower Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Troy Babbitt-USA TODAY Sports

Cuomo: NY considering limited fans for Bills’ playoff game

New York state officials are evaluating a proposal by the Buffalo Bills that would allow 6,700 fans at their home playoff game next month, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday.

The Bills, winners of the AFC East title, will host their first home playoff game since 1995. Bills Stadium has been without fans all season.

Cuomo said a proposal that would require rapid testing for COVID-19, combined with the ability for postgame contact tracing, is being studied. He said it could serve as a model for how large-scale events could be held in the future.

“We would like to do it,” Cuomo said during his COVID-19 briefing from the state capital of Albany. “Nothing is final.”

Fans also would be required to wear masks and be subject to ejection from the stadium if they didn’t.

The Bills haven’t offered details about their proposal, including how the small number of fans would be chosen. The stadium seats approximately 73,000, so 6,700 fans would fill about 9.2 percent of capacity.

“We are continuing to work with the Governor’s Office regarding the details of a plan to possibly host a limited amount of spectators at our home playoff game. Nothing has been finalized at this point,” team spokesman Derek Boyko told The Buffalo News in an email.

Cuomo has made no secret of his desire to attend the game.

“I would like to be at that game — a playoff game — as much as anyone,” he said Sunday. “This has been a long time coming for Buffalo, and there are no fans like Buffalo Bills fans.”

And the fervor of Bills’ fans has state officials worried about the potential spread of COVID-19 through home watch parties and such.

Thousands of fans showed up the meet the team at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport early Sunday morning, hours after the Bills clinched the division title when they beat the Broncos in Denver.

“That’s how disease spreads,” said Dr. Howard Zucker, the state health commissioner.

After Cuomo spoke on Wednesday, Erie County executive Mark Poloncarz said his administration is out of the loop on the potential of hosting fans. He told The Buffalo News that the county doesn’t have the resources for the required COVID-19 testing and contact tracing for an event of this size.

The Bills (11-3) currently are the second seed in the AFC. If the season ended today, they would host the Miami Dolphins in the wild-card round of the playoffs. A win in that game would give them a second home contest in the AFC divisional round.

–Field Level Media

Jan 1, 2019; Pasadena, CA, USA; A general view of the Rose Bowl logo at midfield prior to the 2019 Rose Bowl between the Washington Huskies and the Ohio State Buckeyes at the Rose Bowl Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Rose Bowl denied fan exemption, will likely move

The state of California denied the Rose Bowl a special exemption to allow a few hundred fans to attend the game, likely spurring a venue change for the College Football Playoff semifinal, Yahoo Sports reported Saturday.

The Tournament of Roses appealed to the state to allow players’ family members to attend the game in Pasadena, but that was denied.

The game is scheduled for Jan. 1.

If the game is moved, the likely destination would be AT&T Stadium in Dallas, home of the Cowboys and where the CFP offices are located. If moved, it’s unclear if the game would still be called the Rose Bowl. The last time the Rose Bowl was played outside Pasadena was 1942 after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

A decision on venue is expected Sunday ahead of the selections of the teams.

–Field Level Media

Oct 24, 2020; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA;  Notre Dame Fighting Irish head coach Brian Kelly (right) leads the team onto the field before playing the Pittsburgh Panthers at Heinz Field. Notre Dame won 45-3. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Kelly: Notre Dame might ditch CFP if parents not allowed

A win Saturday in the ACC championship game would seal a College Football Playoff semifinal berth for No. 2 Notre Dame, but Irish coach Brian Kelly said he doesn’t know whether his team would play if players’ families can’t be in the stands.

“I’m not sure we’ll play in the playoffs if the parents can’t be there,” Kelly told reporters Friday. “Why would be we play if you can’t have families at the game? If you can’t have families at bowl games, why would you go to a game where your families can’t be part of it? What’s the sense of playing a game in an area of the country where nobody can be part of it?”

The Irish (10-0) will meet No. 3 Clemson (9-1) in the ACC title game on Saturday at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C., where 5,240 fans will be allowed amid the coronavirus pandemic. Notre Dame, an independent, joined the ACC on a temporary basis this season to be able to play a full slate of games.

Even with a loss to Clemson, Notre Dame wouldn’t be out of contention for a CFP semifinal berth.

One of the semifinals is scheduled to be played at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif. With Los Angeles County experiencing a dangerous spike in COVID-19 cases, a ban on fans at sporting events remains in effect.

The county had 14,270 new cases on Thursday, and the county Department of Health Services reported only 18 open beds in intensive care units.

The second semifinal is set for the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans. Both games are scheduled for Jan. 1.

Bill Hancock, the executive director of the College Football Playoffs, said earlier this week he hoped Los Angeles County would relax its restrictions on fans for the day.

“At this moment, the College Football Playoff looks forward to playing one of the two semifinal playoff games at the Rose Bowl, as scheduled,” Hancock said in a statement. “As we move forward with our planning, we continue to hope that the Rose Bowl’s appeal to government officials to allow the families of student-athletes to attend will be permitted, just as student-athlete families will be welcomed at the Sugar Bowl, the other New Year’s Six games and the championship game in Miami.”

Kelly said his players shouldn’t be deprived of having their families in attendance.

“Maybe they [CFP] need to spend a little less time on who the top four teams are and figure out how to get parents into these games because it is an absolute shame and a sham if parents can’t be watching their kids play,” Kelly said. “My kids have been on campus since June. They haven’t seen their families very much at all. They’ve had to fight through COVID, some of them have had COVID. They can’t be around their families for Christmas, and you’re going to tell me we’re going to have a playoff and maybe one site can have families and the other can’t? Please.

“Somebody’s got to wake up in that room and figure this out or you might as well call this the professional league. I am so sick and tired of this playoff committee talking about having sites where you can’t have parents at and their families. It’s ridiculous.”

Earlier this fall, athletic directors Martin Jarmond of UCLA and Mike Bohn of USC asked county and state health officials to allow family members of their football teams to attend games and were denied.

UCLA plays its home games at the Rose Bowl.

The Los Angeles Rams and Chargers also have played their home games at the new SoFi Stadium in nearby Inglewood without any fans in attendance.

An appearance in one of the New Year’s Six bowls and College Football Playoff games is a financial windfall for schools and conferences. In 2018-19, the Rose, Sugar, Orange, Fiesta, Peach and Cotton bowls, plus the national championship game, paid a combined $549 million to leagues and participants, USA Today reported.

–Field Level Media

Nov 22, 2020; Landover, Maryland, USA; Washington Football Team cornerback Ronald Darby (23) celebrates with Washington Football Team cornerback Jimmy Moreland (20) after recovering a fumble in the end zone against the Cincinnati Bengals at FedExField. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Washington Football Team: No fans the rest of season

The Washington Football Team will continue their pursuit of the NFC East title without fans at their remaining two home games this season.

“After careful consideration and close coordination with Prince George’s County health officials, the Washington Football Team has made the difficult decision to play the remainder of our 2020 games without fans in attendance,” the team said in a statement on Friday.

“We will miss the unbridled passion of our fanbase at FedExField as we take on the Seattle Seahawks on December 20th and the Carolina Panthers on December 27th, but we must remain diligent in protecting our staff, players, fans, and the community as the region continues its fight against COVID-19.”

Washington (5-7) upset the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday night to remain in a tie with the New York Giants for first place in the decision. They are scheduled to play the San Francisco 49ers (5-7) on Sunday in Glendale, Ariz.

–Field Level Media

Rose, Fiesta bowls to be played without fans

The Fiesta Bowl and the Rose Bowl will be played without fans in January due to COVID-19 restrictions, both bowl committees announced Thursday.

While the Fiesta Bowl will allow families of players to attend the Jan. 2 game at Glendale, Ariz., the state, city and county nixed the Tournament of Roses’ request for the same in Pasadena, Calif. The Rose Bowl is one of the College Football Playoff’s semifinal games this go-round.

Los Angeles County is under a stay-at-home order due to the pandemic through mid-December.

“While we are disappointed that the Rose Bowl Game will not be played in front of spectators, we are pleased that we are still able to hold the game this year, continuing the 100-year plus tradition of The Granddaddy of Them All,” said David Eads, executive director and CEO of the Tournament of Roses. “We continue to work closely with health department officials and the Rose Bowl Stadium to provide the safest possible environment for our game participants.”

Arizona has experienced an uptick in cases of COVID-19, peaking at more than 5,700 late last month.

“While we are disappointed that the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl will not have fans in the stadium to enjoy Bowl Season this year, we respect the decisions made by the local authorities,” said Mike Nealy, the executive director of the Fiesta Bowl Organization. “Our staff was incredibly diligent to put health and safety measures in place that earned the endorsement from the Governor’s Office for policies that aligned with recommendations for reducing COVID-19 transmission risk. Ultimately, we all need to do our part to ensure the health and safety of our community to reduce the spread of COVID-19.”

The Sugar Bowl — the other CFP semifinal — as well as the Orange Bowl and CFP title game are still on track to host a limited amount of fans.

Ten bowl games thus far have been canceled due to the pandemic: Bahamas, Celebration, Fenway, Hawaii, Holiday, Las Vegas, Motor City, Pinstripe, Redbox and Sun.

–Field Level Media