College football returns to North Texas Saturday with extra precautions in place

The first tailgate and college football game of the season in North Texas will happen on Saturday.

University of North Texas football officials said players and staff have been tested weekly to make this game happen.

While Saturday’s game will be the same on the field, everything around it will look different.

“Our numbers will be lower. On game days, we will have masks on the sidelines, gloves on. Mindful of how we do hydration, medical examinations, something as simple as not sharing towels and drinking after each other,” said Jeff Smith, UNT senior associate athletic director of sports medicine.

The Mean Green will take the field Saturday for their first game during the coronavirus pandemic.

There will be 25% of fans allowed in the lower bowl, and 50% in suites for the game against Houston Baptist.

Masks are mandatory while inside the stadium.

Tailgating is allowed, but fans are urged to only be in groups of 10 or fewer.

For the players on the field, it’s been weeks of coronavirus precautions.

“That is a very robust plan to try to get multiple tests per week in our football program, daily screeners, we are doing temperature checks, we are doing wrist bands every day for people to be in the building,” Smith explained. “That way, everyone has the same color every day, the color changes every day.”

UNT's marching band will not be in the stands, but cheerleaders and the dance team will be in the stands Saturday.

SMU will be on the road in San Marcos Saturday to play against Texas State.

Masks are mandatory, and 25 percent of fans will be allowed inside that game as well, but tailgaiting is not allowed.

“They saw the protocols we were using, talked to their friends in different places, and saw that we were in line, maybe more stringent than other places,” SMU coach Sonny Dykes said.

SMU has also taken multiple precautions by testing athletes weekly, temperature checks, and sanitizing equipment frequently.

“It’s been a long process. Here we are game week, and our players know we are going to do everything to take care of them when it comes to making sure they are not exposed and keeping them safe and healthy,” Dykes added.

But, the 100th Iron Skillet rivalry game between SMU and TCU scheduled for September 11 has been canceled.

RELATED: SMU vs. TCU football game postponed due to COVID-19 cases among TCU players, staff

Friday, the TCU athletic director said in a statement that multiple players and coaches tested positive for COVID-19, and the number of infected leaves them without the minimum threshold of available players the Horned Frogs set for themselves.

UNT officials said they have told their players it comes down to personal discipline in staying safe on campus.

“We know that we are probably the most tested people on campus. We have the most rigid plan that we have, but really it’s a shared responsibility,” Smith said. “The student-athletes, when they go into society, we are not like the NBA that can be under lock and key all the time. We have to make sure we are making good choices. Wash your hands, wear your masks all the time. Not putting yourself in social situations.”