While students were laying down blankets on a grid of white dots on Memorial Mall, an inflatable Purdue Pete teetered back and forth as if he too couldn’t wait for Saturday’s football game to start.
The same LED wall system used in the Elliott Hall of Music displayed the game, according to Assistant Vice Provost for Student Life Todd Wetzel.
Football watch parties are the most recent addition to the ReEntry program created by the Office of the Vice Provost for Student Life. This program aims to host campus activities using social distancing strategies to amplify student life, according to the Purdue Memorial Union website.
“People can certainly sit in their apartment with their mask off in the comfort of their own home,” Wetzel said. “But the overwhelming part about any Purdue football experience is being a part of the crowd.”
When the revised football schedule was announced last month, Purdue President Mitch Daniels was clear that no large gatherings in violation of the Protect Purdue Pledge would be allowed, according to previous Exponent reporting.
“We’re going to have to fashion some way for all of us to enjoy the games,” Daniels said, “without congregating in ways that violate all the rules that go into the Protect Purdue Pledge.”
PMU created a plan approved by the Protect Purdue Health Center to do just that, Wetzel said.
Typical game-day concessions were handed out to students in a taped-off area with the field with an assembly line of snacks. Students had to finish eating before returning to their blanket.
Halftime included a prerecorded, Halloween-themed performance by the three platoons of the marching band.
Some students in attendance said they were grateful for this game restoring some sense of a normal semester.
“We’re both really excited for our first game on campus,” said Tannah Benware, a freshman in the College of Agriculture. She was with Alexis Hock, a freshman in the College of Health and Human Sciences.
“Nothing exciting has been able to happen because of COVID,” Benware added, “so this is the first thing we can do that’s fun.”
Jacob Bridgewater, a senior in the College of Engineering, said he was initially sad his final year at Purdue would pass without football. Even though he said he would prefer to watch games from Ross-Ade Stadium, he said experiencing an unorthodox game day atmosphere is better than nothing.
Bridgewater went on to call the game: Purdue wins, 24-19, he predicted. The final score was Purdue 24, Iowa 20.
“Given that there’s no tailgating,” Wetzel said, “there is no other place to gather with your fellow Boilermakers and express that school spirit together. This is a really singular opportunity.”
The next watch party is set for the home game against Northwestern on Nov. 14. It will be the last opportunity for such a gathering before students are sent home for Thanksgiving.