Joshua Youngblood didn't hesitate last week when he was asked what he would miss most should the Big 12 decide to follow the lead of two other Power Five conferences and cancel fall football.
"One thing I'd definitely miss the most is the fans," said Youngblood, Kansas State's sophomore wide receiver and all-conference kick returner. "There's nothing like running out in front of 50-plus thousand people. There's nothing like it."
Well, Youngblood and K-State won't be greeted by those 50,000 screaming fans for the Sept. 12 season opener against Arkansas State. But neither will Bill Snyder Family Stadium's stands sit empty, and that was welcome news for the Wildcats.
"Me personally, I'm excited," senior running back Harry Trotter said Monday upon learning that the Riley County Commission approved a K-State proposal that would allow for a crowd of approximately 25% of stadium capacity. "It's better than nothing.
"Some stadiums and some colleges aren't having any fans, and I'm super thankful that we get to have at least some capacity."
The approval amended a county health order prohibiting facilities above 2,000 capacity from opening in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
That Bill Snyder Family Stadium won't be filled to its listed 50,000 capacity — the stadium record is nearly 54,000 fans — didn't matter to all-Big 12 defensive end Wyatt Hubert.
"Having fans in the stands, that's what makes up game day or not," said Hubert, a junior from Topeka. "Whether fans are in the stadium or not, I think it would be such a different game if no fans (were) allowed. Obviously the student body makes up such a big part of the game day experience of playing at Kansas State.
"But I'm so happy that they passed that rule of 25% capacity because obviously all us players are going out there and we need our supporters, which are our parents, which are our relatives who got us where we are today. Obviously the boosters, with all they do and how much they give this program (and) even the north end zone, with all that's going on."
Assistant head coach Van Malone also weighed in.
"Our players, they appreciate our fan base and they appreciate the excitement that they have on game day," he said. "We all understand that this is a moment of adjustments, and this is a moment where you get an opportunity play, and everything's not going to be perfect.
"Our players understand it, and so we're going to make the best of the situation we're dealt. If we're dealt with having 25% capacity, 10% capacity ... whatever it may be, our players are going to deal with it."
Youngblood, who at the time didn’t know yet that the Wildcats would be cleared to play at all, was ready for any eventuality.
"I think we have the best fans in the country, so that would be a bummer, just not being able to see a full crowd and play in front of a full crowd," he said. "If we've got to cut it down to 50% in order to play, we have to do what we have to do.
"But that's one thing that I'd miss the most. Hopefully we can try to have at least one packed game. If it happens, it happens."
K-State lost two home games when the Big 12 decided to go with a 9-plus-1 schedule of a full conference round robin with one nonconference game. The Wildcats, who originally were to have played host to Buffalo, North Dakota and Vanderbilt, have five league road games, starting Sept. 26 at Oklahoma.
Crowd size wasn't the only modification for K-State home games. There will be no tailgating allowed, fans must wear face coverings in order to enter the stadium and keep them on inside where 6-foot social distancing is not possible.
"(The players) know where our fans stand in terms of enthusiasm and support for K-State football, but we have to make sure we keep everyone healthy while we do what we do," Malone said. "So our players are very excited for any amount of fans to be in the stands, and they understand where we are from a position of keeping everybody safe."
K-State players have their own safety protocols, both on and off the field. Just having fans in the stands is a bonus.
"I think as I've gotten older, I think the veterans on the team, whether we have fans or not, we've got to get out there and execute and do the best we can," Trotter said. "I love having fans there in any capacity, so I’m super excited about that and excited to see how that works out."