Alabama is moving forward with plans to host a full-capacity college football game at Bryant-Denny Stadium this coming season, athletics director Greg Byrne announced Monday.
Byrne tweet a short statement after the news the previous day that the school would return to direct teaching with no class capacity limitation in the fall. Byrne said they would continue to monitor medical guidelines “as we have had it all along.”
Alabama reduced its capacity to 20% last season as COVID-19 spread, infecting millions of Americans. Infections recently decreased significantly.
Last Friday, the Centers for Disease Control reported a seven-day average of 66,348 infections in the United States, which is down about 10,000 from the previous week.
According to data from the New York Times, Alabama has the lowest vaccination rate in the state, with 13% of people receiving a single injection.
The Bryant-Denny Stadium, which has a capacity of 100,077, is scheduled to host seven football games next season, starting with the home opener on September 11 against Mercer.
The release of the SEC football schedule on Wednesday features the return of non-conference matches and an opening day roster on September 4 that includes a Power 5 bout. LSU in UCLA, Georgia vs. Clemson (Charlotte, North Carolina) and Miami vs. Alabama (Atlanta).
Texas A&M, which came close to making the University Football Playoffs last season, will travel to Colorado in Week 2, recreating the previous Top 12 program bouts. The game will be played at Empower Field at Mile High in Denver.
Blonde, which will be led by new coach Bryan Harsin, will play on Penn State in Week 3.
Defending champions Alabama will kick off conference games that Saturday with a trip to Florida, setting up a rematch of last season’s SEC championship match, which was won by Crimson Tide 52-46.
“We are proud to have completed the 2020 football season under unique circumstances and will now focus on playing the 2021 football season on schedule,” SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said in a statement. “The circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 virus will continue to guide our decision making if any adjustments need to be made.”
The SEC canceled all non-conference matches last season amid the pandemic, with teams playing 10 regular season matches against league opponents each.
The 2021 schedule will also feature two homecoming trips for the head coach.
Coach Ole Miss Lane Kiffin will return to Tennessee for the first time as head coach when the Rebel fight the Volunteers on October 16. Kiffin only spent one season as head coach at Tennessee in 2009 before leaving for the USC, sparking a commotion from students in Knoxville.
Former coach Ole Miss Hugh Freeze will return to his old hometown Freedom a trip to Ole Miss on November 6. Freeze spent five seasons as head coach at Ole Miss before stepping down in 2017 after school officials discovered a pattern that included phone calls to numbers associated with female escort services. Freeze took over the Liberty program in 2019 and have turned 18-6 in two seasons.
Other highlights of the SEC’s release schedule include:
Alabama Play-by-play broadcaster Eli Gold said his so-called 409-game streak will expire on Saturday when he recovers from COVID-19.
Gold, 66, said on Thursday that he and his wife had tested positive for the virus. He makes the announcement during coach Nick Saban’s weekly radio show, which he does remotely.
Gold, who grew up in New York, took over as Crimson Tide broadcaster in 1988. He also mentions NFL games.
Saban, 69, recently recovered from COVID-19. He is diagnosed two days before Thanksgiving and forced to watch Auburn’s game from home. It was the first game Saban missed since he was a 22-year-old graduate assistant at Kent State and his father died.
Crimson Tide is top rated to play at Arkansas on Saturday.
On Friday, the SEC announced a roster of games for the final two weeks of the regular season, due to delays from the start of the season due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The conference will play six games on December 12 – an open date set for all schools at the start of the season – and up to five games on December 19, including SEC championship matches.
number 5 Texas A&M (6-1) is scheduled to host Be Miss on December 12, a match originally scheduled for November 21 but was postponed due to COVID-19 issues in the Aggies program. Ole Miss has suspended team activities due to an increase in positive COVID-19 tests in its program and is scheduled to resume its activities on Wednesday.
The Aggies’ ability to play each of their last matches is a key part of their potential University Football Playoff hopes. The same is true for No. 6 Florida (7-1), who was scheduled to host LSU on 12 December in a match postponed from 17 October. The Gators currently lead SEC East.
In addition to SEC championship matches, on December 19 Ole Miss will travel to LSU and Missouri to travel to the State of Mississippi. Other games tentatively scheduled for that date are Texas A&M in Tennessee and Vanderbilt in Georgia. If Texas A&M and / or Georgia qualify for an SEC championship match, games not played by each team on that day will be declared no contest by the SEC.