HUNTINGTON — While it looked different, there was no doubt Saturday was game day in Huntington.
The west parking lot of Joan C. Edwards Stadium may have been void of revelers at their traditional tailgates, but a sea of green still made its way down 3rd and 5th avenues as fans marched to the stadium to watch the Herd play Eastern Kentucky University for the first game of the 2020 season.
Tailgating was banned on Marshall University’s campus and strongly discouraged elsewhere. Normally full parking lots around the stadium were nearly empty.
However, the ban on campus didn’t stop tailgating from happening, though many were much smaller than in other years.
In the parking lot of Fat Patty’s, some families set up spots to hang out before the game.
Mary Freeman, of Huntington, said things were a little different than normal — their group was smaller and they were in a different location — but they bleed green.
“We still got to cheer on the band when they came out,” Freeman said, “even if there are only 32 of them this year, not more than 100. It was a little sad, but it was still good.”
Carolyn Eddins-Outman said she was sad for any senior who may not be a part of the 32. As a former university athlete, athletic trainer and graduate assistant, Eddins-Outman said she knows how life-changing an experience being a part of the Herd can be.
“It’s something really special to take that field,” she said. “I took the field at Fairfield. To miss that opportunity is a really sad thing to me. It’s making the hairs on the back of my neck stand up just talking about it.”
Eddins-Outman said she was glad the students — from the band to the football team — got to play.
“It’s not about COVID or precautions or politics or wearing a mask,” she said. “It’s about the emotion.”
In the stadium, a row was left between fans who were spread out within the row. Groups were limited to six people and there was no re-entry to the game. Masks had to be worn the entire time.
Marshall sophomore Joel Young, from Boone County, West Virginia, said he was excited to be able to watch live football. He said he didn’t expect it to happen at all.
“I don’t really anticipate us making it through the entire season because of the virus, so I’m taking it all in while I can,” Young said.
Young said like anything, he figured some people would follow the rules in the stadium and others wouldn’t. He said he felt great about the safety precautions in the stadium and on campus more generally.
The Herd’s next home game is Sept. 19 against Appalachian State University.