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Memphis Tigers kick off 2020 season in a socially distanced Liberty Bowl

Just 4,500 fans are allowed and other safety precautions are in place to follow local health guidelines, and COVID-19 realities.

MEMPHIS, Tenn — The field is still 100 yards long, the scoreboard lights still shine bright, but it will a much different - and quieter vibe - Saturday night at the Liberty Bowl, when the Memphis Tigers kick off their 2020 season.

"We understand the importance of making sure this is a safe environment," Liberty Bowl General Manager Thomas Carrier said.

For the game against Arkansas State - and the foreseeable future - a little more than 4,500 fans will be spread out 12 feet apart between groups to meet Shelby County health guidelines.

 "Top to bottom, left to right, every which way," Carrier said.

Masks will be required, except if you are eating and drinking, and the lucky few with a paperless ticket scanned must stay in one of four areas inside the stadium.

Concessions will also be more limited.

"We tried to maintain as much as a touchless process as possible," Carrier said.

Carrier said his team is well aware of the stakes, ahead of the largest allowed gathering in Memphis in about six months.

"There's going to be a lot of eyes on us. This is a national broadcast, so we are doing our part to make sure people feel safe when they come onto property," Carrier said.

Those with University of Memphis athletics said season ticket holders will be allowed to go to at least one football game, as the university spreads out a much thinner allowed capacity this fall.

"We wish we were able to have more but we are thankful for the fans we are able to have here," University of Memphis Deputy Athletics Director Jeff Crane said.

Things will also look much different outside the stadium this season. They'll be no pregame Tiger Walk, tailgating is not allowed, and fans are not encouraged to greet the team as they leave their hotel before the game. 

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