Homecoming meant something a little different this year.
Panther fans gathered under the lights at Riccardo Silva Stadium on Saturday for the first time since November 2019. Although the Panthers lost a close game to Middle Tennessee State, 31-28, it was still an opportunity for people to feel a part of their FIU community. In-person gatherings, of course, have been few and far between since the coronavirus pandemic started.
“It’s been pretty awesome," said sophomore Alexander Menendez. "I’ve been with a fraternity that I am joining, so that is pretty cool. Honestly, the kind of vibe here is awesome. I kind of wish there was more people here, but we get what we get."
Students were given first priority for tickets. The game was the final installment in a week that included a big-screen viewing party, a car caravan and other socially distanced Homecoming celebrations.
“The homecoming committee and athletics did this well. I’m still sitting close enough to my friends to where I can have a conversation with them without screaming. For my first football game, it’s a different experience. I like it,” said Katelyn Roccanti, a sophomore studying digital communications.
Fans at "The Cage" wore masks and were asked to socially distance. Capacity of the stadium was lowered to less than 25 percent.
“When I was asked to come to the game, my first question was, ‘Are they going to be wearing masks? Are they going to be social distancing?’ said Brenda Jennings, who is the aunt of a player on the team. “I wonder if the stands are cleaned and sanitized. Overall though, I feel safe.”
The Panthers will try again for their first win of the season when they take on Charlotte on Oct. 17.