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A young University of Wyoming fan holds up a sign while dancing during the game against New Mexico on Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019, at War Memorial Stadium in Laramie. The Cowboys won the game 23-10. Michael Cummo/Wyoming Tribune Eagle

LARAMIE – The University of Wyoming will allow 7,000 fans at its opener at War Memorial Stadium, the athletic department announced in a news release Tuesday afternoon.

The usual capacity for the stadium, 29,181, will be reduced throughout the season due to the COVID-19 pandemic that originally shut the fall season down altogether.

Capacity could change before the Cowboys’ first home game, which has yet to be officially scheduled, based on “current COVID-19 data,” per the news release. Attendance numbers for the remainder of the season have yet to be announced.

The specifics of UW’s schedule have not been released, though the Mountain West Conference said all games in the conference will start Oct. 24 and that a schedule was coming in the near future.

“We want to thank the Wyoming Department of Health for all their efforts in working with us to allow fans at our football games this fall,” UW Athletics Director Tom Burman said in a statement. “Mike Ceballos, Dr. Alexia Harrist and Stephanie Pyle at the Wyoming Department of Health have been great for us to work with in the lead-up to this announcement. We all want a safe environment at our games, while still allowing for as many fans as is deemed safe.”

Last Thursday, the MW reversed course on postponing the fall football season and announced it would play an eight-game slate starting in late October. The season was originally postponed in August due to the pandemic, and the conference was looking at playing all of its fall sports in the spring.

A major reason for the change of heart is access to rapid testing, which has become readily available over the past month or so. MW athletes, coaches and staff will be tested three times a week. The MW will pay for the testing, Commissioner Craig Thompson said.

Each school in the conference will have different crowd sizes based on local health regulations. Home field advantage has also been somewhat mitigated in 2020 college football thus far, with normally unbeatable home teams like LSU falling to unranked teams in front of sparse crowds, many of those seats occupied by cardboard cutouts. Historically deafening stadiums are now quieter than they’ve ever been.

But having some fans is better than having no fans. Schools in the Pac-12, for instance, are not allowing any fans this season.

“It really has become apparent that the home field advantage is probably, I’m sure there’s still some … but it’s not near as much as what it has been,” UW coach Craig Bohl said during a Zoom call Monday. “I don’t know where we’re going to be at the University of Wyoming. But I know Tom (Burman) was encouraged that we’re going to be able to have fans here.”

Tickets this season will only be available on a per-game basis, though current season ticket holders will get first preference. They will be available for purchase no earlier than Oct. 7 and potentially later, depending on when the conference schedule is released.

Social distancing will be enforced at games, and seating at the stadium will be spread out. As is the case with everyone on campus, a face covering will be required. No tailgating will be permitted.

Michael Katz covers the University of Wyoming for WyoSports. He can be reached at mkatz@wyosports.net or 307-755-3325. Follow him on Twitter at @michaellkatz.

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