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USF football zealot plans to persist amidst pandemic

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To even the most zealous fans of USF football, Suzanne Ward’s devotion remains in another realm.

At least three time zones away.

One of the handful of humans who has attended all 276 Bulls contests, the 56-year-old USF alumnus has flown to every game — home and away — since moving to Portland, Ore., in 2003.

“Including when I worked in Asia,” said Ward, who was in the continent designing medical devices. “So I have flown from Singapore to make a football game.”

And she’s not about to let a pandemic threaten her streak.

Ward, who is single and has no children, already has booked flights, hotels and ground transportation for the 2020 season. Her seat at Raymond James Stadium — 50-yard line, home side, eight rows up — is secure. When tickets for road games become available, she’ll pounce.

But don’t mistake her zeal for coronavirus complacency. If the season happens, no one from USF — except for perhaps the team — will put themselves more squarely in the virus crosshairs.

“Each weekend (during the season), I spend 18 hours in airports or on airplanes,” said Ward, who manages a software development team for Intel Corp. and made a $1.5 million donation to USF’s athletic program last year.

“So it’s not just driving in my car. I sit in kind of an open area. A lot of people buy tickets and don’t attend, so I’ve kind of got a little bubble around me. But the getting there is going to be the higher risk for me.”

It’s a risk she’s still willing to take — at this point. A recent fan survey sent out by the school asked its season-ticket holders if they’d be willing to sit somewhere else this fall, presumably as a virus precaution. Ward, who grew up in Riverview and attended East Bay High, has invested too much to relinquish her seat.

“But I don’t like this uncertainty,” she said.

“I wish that we’d either just say (the season’s) not going to happen and then deal with the repercussions … because it’s going to keep dragging.”

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As pandemic persists, could tailgating be a template for safe social partying?

One health expert says pregame festivities can remain enjoyable if partiers mostly stay in their space.
 
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Published Jul. 2
Updated Yesterday

For roughly a dozen years, Marc Ostroff has set up his USF tailgating Taj Mahal on one of the most coveted parcels outside Raymond James Stadium.

Conspicuously parked 20 yards from the stadium’s south entrance (Lot 5, Row 2, Space 1) is a shiny 6-by-8-foot Wells Cargo trailer converted into a Bulls pregame oasis. Accessories include a built-in beer system, 60-inch TV, automatic satellite dish and refurbished counter-top space.

“It used to have a grill on the back,” said Ostroff, an insurance agent who graduated from USF in 2004. “But we got a few bucks in our hands so we cater now instead of grilling.”

Normally, Ostroff’s sleek, fully-loaded rig attracts roughly 20 regular guests per game, not counting the “strays” who drift by to chat and imbibe. But if conventional tailgating is permitted this autumn, he plans to make his revelry area more restricted.

“We are going to kind of create the entire tailgate space as a VIP area,” said Ostroff, who has earned “Iron Bull” status because of his donation of at least $10,000 annually to USF’s athletic program.

“We’ve ordered green velvet ropes. We’re either gonna use wristbands or neck credentials to be admitted into the tailgate. … We’re gonna do temperature checks upon entry.”

Welcome to pregame in the pandemic era, where the corn hole participants could be masked and designated spaces could be protected more fiercely than ever. All of which might be a good thing.

If football proceeds at the pro and college levels this fall, and if a limited number of fans are allowed inside stadiums, the tailgate scene — done correctly — could provide a social-distancing template as the sports world slowly re-boots.

But correctly is the critical word, says Dr. Jay Wolfson, senior associate dean at Morsani College of Medicine at USF.

 

“You stay in your space, you stay in your spot between the white lines,” said Wolfson, an expert on health care policy. “And the responsible part of it is, remembering that prolonged exposure to other people outside of your family and the people you come with — in proximate settings — is the risk.”

To this point, the national snapshot of college football in 2020 remains mostly undeveloped. With no end in sight to the COVID-19 crisis, schools and professional leagues continue working through scenarios that would include stadiums at normal or nominal fan capacity, or no fans at all.

 

But the activity outside the stadiums, where the risk for coronavirus transmission is lower, could continue flourishing, albeit with stipulations.

“We’re gonna social park,” South Carolina athletic director Ray Tanner recently told 107.5-FM in Columbia.

“Gamecock Park and the parking facilities that we control, with a limited fan base in attendance, you certainly could do that. And we would, more than likely. Try to park socially apart, and encourage tailgating to have social distancing.”

USF athletic director Michael Kelly said recently that his staff continues developing several game-day scenarios, with no firm tailgating guidelines implemented. Tampa Sports Authority spokesman Bobby Silvest said the organization, which manages Raymond James Stadium, has received no tailgating parameters from its tenants (USF, Bucs).

“All of that’s still very fluid,” Kelly said, “but (tailgating) is definitely a major topic.”

Wolfson suggested the greater game-day concerns arise after the tailgate. Protocols almost certainly will be established for the entrance of fans — at least those permitted inside the stadium — and the procedure for getting them to their seat.

“And then once they’re inside, they have to find a way — in an organized and responsible fashion — of going to the restrooms and back, and ordering their hot dogs and beers and pretzels,” Wolfson said.

“But the parking lots themselves, as long as people stay in their lane … you don’t need to necessarily wear the face mask if you’re outside, unless you begin to engage with other people’s tailgate.”

Ostroff’s tailgate, if permitted, will be in its convenient, customary spot. Though not worried about staging his pre-kickoff fete amid a potentially lingering pandemic, he remains cautious.

Hence the velvet VIP rope, and this message to his customary revelers.

“No right or wrong answer, do what makes you comfortable,” he said. “If you’re a frequent tailgate visitor and you don’t feel comfortable coming this season, we can’t wait to see you next season.”

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18 minutes ago, brybull1970 said:

How has no Bull fan taken her off the free agent market?!

I was thinking the same. She attended when I was there and then made a boat load of $. For sure, she gets the advantages of a single life...freedom to do what you want when you want, and answering to no one. Good for her! 

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40 minutes ago, brybull1970 said:

How has no Bull fan taken her off the free agent market?!

Marriage ain't for everybody .....

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That to me is incredibly amazing and every time I see her I tell her that, she is the bomb!

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7 hours ago, Triple B said:

USF football zealot plans to persist amidst pandemic

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To even the most zealous fans of USF football, Suzanne Ward’s devotion remains in another realm.

At least three time zones away.

One of the handful of humans who has attended all 276 Bulls contests, the 56-year-old USF alumnus has flown to every game — home and away — since moving to Portland, Ore., in 2003.

“Including when I worked in Asia,” said Ward, who was in the continent designing medical devices. “So I have flown from Singapore to make a football game.”

And she’s not about to let a pandemic threaten her streak.

Ward, who is single and has no children, already has booked flights, hotels and ground transportation for the 2020 season. Her seat at Raymond James Stadium — 50-yard line, home side, eight rows up — is secure. When tickets for road games become available, she’ll pounce.

But don’t mistake her zeal for coronavirus complacency. If the season happens, no one from USF — except for perhaps the team — will put themselves more squarely in the virus crosshairs.

“Each weekend (during the season), I spend 18 hours in airports or on airplanes,” said Ward, who manages a software development team for Intel Corp. and made a $1.5 million donation to USF’s athletic program last year.

“So it’s not just driving in my car. I sit in kind of an open area. A lot of people buy tickets and don’t attend, so I’ve kind of got a little bubble around me. But the getting there is going to be the higher risk for me.”

It’s a risk she’s still willing to take — at this point. A recent fan survey sent out by the school asked its season-ticket holders if they’d be willing to sit somewhere else this fall, presumably as a virus precaution. Ward, who grew up in Riverview and attended East Bay High, has invested too much to relinquish her seat.

“But I don’t like this uncertainty,” she said.

“I wish that we’d either just say (the season’s) not going to happen and then deal with the repercussions … because it’s going to keep dragging.”

Wow. You go girl 

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Impressive. She won my heart at USF alumnus. Everything else is icing on the cake.

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A lady/bull's fan to be proud of for sure. Possibly...MK could lure her away from Intel and have her do the marketing for USF??  So what problem could there be??...                          🤘  vs  💲 

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