Saturday night in Tiger Stadium is delayed, but it's coming
The LSU season was supposed to start Saturday night in Tiger Stadium.
“Saturday night in Tiger Stadium” isn’t just a day and a location, it’s a cultural phenomenon in Louisiana.
Tiger fans start looking forward to the next season’s first game as soon as they leave the last game in Tiger Stadium each November.
So every opener, every return to Tiger Stadium after a 9-month absence is special, like the first night of Mardi Gras arriving some 50 weeks after the last Fat Tuesday.
But this Saturday night was going to be different.
This one was going to be the first opportunity for the LSU fans – perhaps 100,000 or so of them – to gather in Tiger Stadium for a game for the first time since the best Tigers team in history finished a 15-0 national championship season fewer than 100 miles away in the Superdome.
The home opener against UTSA wasn’t going to feature a marquee opponent, but the opponent was irrelevant because this was going to be about celebrating a championship and welcoming back Saturday night in Tiger Stadium – and the Tigers.
But COVID-19 had other ideas.
The pandemic caused the cancellation of that game and the entire SEC nonconference schedule as well countless other college football and other sporting events.
Saturday night in Tiger Stadium (actually Saturday afternoon) is still coming and it’s not that far away. LSU is scheduled to begin its revised schedule at home against Mississippi State at 2:30 p.m. on Sept. 26.
But it won’t be the same.
That will be the first of 5 games in Tiger Stadium compared to the traditional 8. That’s like losing 5 days from Mardi Gras season.
We don’t yet know how many fans will be in Tiger Stadium for the first game, but we do know the number will be far less than the venerable building’s 100,000-seat capacity.
If LSU is consistent with the other SEC schools that have announced plans for limited attendance, there will be 20,000-25,000 fans in Tiger Stadium to heckle Mississippi State coach Mike Leach in his first game in the SEC.
Perhaps there will be more fans, but it seems unlikely some 3 weeks out as Gov. John Bel Edwards continues to evaluate COVID-19 restrictions for public gatherings throughout Louisiana.
If more fans are going to be allowed, it’s more likely to happen for the Oct. 10 game against Missouri or the Oct. 24 game against South Carolina.
But the date on the schedule that has the big purple circle around it – now that Sept. 5 has been crossed off – is Nov. 14. That’s the game against Alabama, a week later than normal.
It will mostly be Saturday Night in Tiger Stadium as the game is scheduled for 5 p.m. 2 weeks after the end of Daylight Savings Time.
Obviously the Tigers would hope to have the stadium full for that game. In fact, if they could transfer some of their capacity from other games to expand the capacity for this game they would. But they can’t.
The evolution of the pandemic, the evolution of the government’s precautions for the pandemic and the reaction to those two things will determine how many folks are in Tiger Stadium for this season’s home schedule, including the Dec. 5 regular-season finale against Ole Miss.
Assuming that game is played as scheduled, when however many fans attend the game depart, they will be looking ahead to the first game of the 2021 season, hoping it will be more like Saturday Night in Tiger Stadium was before this pandemic.