EUGENE, Ore. — Among the elements of Oregon’s gameday experience most beloved by head coach Mario Cristobal is the playing of Mat Kearney’s video for the song “Coming Home (Oregon)” after the first quarter of games in Autzen Stadium.
One of the song’s lyrics recalls “a memory (that) tastes so good, it’s bittersweet.” During the pandemic year of 2020, Cristobal could relate.
Nobody missed the sight of Oregon fans in the stands of Autzen Stadium last season more than Cristobal – except of course for the fans themselves. For more than a year now, Cristobal has eagerly anticipated the next time “Coming Home (Oregon)” echoed throughout Autzen Stadium, with fans once again in the stands, clapping and singing along.
“We can’t wait,” Cristobal said after the 2020 season, “to see the best fans in the nation back in Autzen Stadium next fall.”
As of Wednesday, that dream will become reality. Oregon Gov. Kate Brown announced Wednesday the end of statewide health and safety restrictions stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, clearing the way for fans to return to Autzen Stadium this fall at full capacity.
“We are thrilled to welcome the most passionate fans in college football back to Autzen Stadium in full this fall, creating the game day pageantry and an incredible atmosphere to support the Ducks,” UO director of athletics Rob Mullens said. “We look forward to experiencing once again the unique Oregon game day traditions that we all missed so dearly.”
Oregon will open the 2021 season at home on Sept. 4 against Fresno State. The UO home schedule also includes Pac-12 games against Arizona, California, Colorado, Washington State and Oregon State.
The Ducks played at home just twice in 2020, beating Stanford and UCLA with no fans in attendance. Among the features of the gameday experience they were deprived of was the debut of a massive new video board in the east end of the stadium, and an improved sound system.
“I want to express our gratitude to Gov. Brown and her staff as well as to the Oregon Health Authority and Lane County Public Health for all of their diligence and collaboration throughout this process, as we collectively worked to ensure the health and safety of our student-athletes, coaches, staff and fans,” Mullens said. “This is an exciting time for Oregon Athletics, and we are anxious to kick off the 2021 season in a packed Autzen Stadium.”
When the Ducks kick off the home schedule against Fresno State on Sept. 4, face coverings will not be required, although fans yet to receive a vaccine for COVID-19 are encouraged to wear them. Proof of vaccination will not be required, nor will sections be designated for specific vaccination status.
As of spring 2020, all UO athletics events exclusively utilize mobile ticketing. Admission to Autzen Stadium will be gained by accessing a mobile ticket through the Go Ducks Gameday app.
The Oregon football team has won back-to-back Pac-12 championships, and returns arguably the best defensive player in the country in Kayvon Thibodeaux, along with a veteran group of playmakers on offense including CJ Verdell, Travis Dye, Jaylon Redd and Johnny Johnson III.
A year ago, those players helped the Ducks reach a New Year’s Six bowl for the second year a row despite the absence of the UO faithful in the stands. But all of that will change this fall.
Come September, Oregon fans will have the chance to come home to the place they remember. Cristobal and his program can’t wait to spread wide their arms, as the Northwest air brings the fans back to town.
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