KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Besides the classic orange colors and the cheers from fans, Vols fans also have one thing to look forward to during football season — the Pride of the Southland Band.
On Wednesday the band posted a socially distanced soundcheck on their social media account, previewing what may be in store for the season. Band members played Rocky Top in Neyland Stadium, practicing for the start of a football season with many changes.
Officials said that there will be at least three seats between players, band members will have masks and there will be bell covers for instruments. They also said that the "Orange Band" was playing in the preview. They split the band into two groups of around 175 players — the "Orange Band" and the "White Band."
Officials said the two bands practice separately and rotate band directors so that if someone is diagnosed with COVID-19, they won't all need to quarantine. No members tested positive for the coronavirus as of Wednesday, but some have missed rehearsal due to being put in self-isolation after coming into close contact with people who tested positive.
Rehearsals have been held outdoors, and officials said they have to cancel if it rains since the bands aren't allowed inside due to safety guidelines.
"I've been teaching for 37 years and this is definitely the hardest year yet," said Dr. Don Ryder, the Director of Bands.
Despite the challenges, Ryder said that the Pride of the Southland Band has had more members this year than in 2019 — around 360 total members for the 2020 season.
Vols fans will be able to watch their favorite team play against other SEC teams starting Saturday. Many will watch from home after officials limited the capacity of Neyland Stadium to allow for social distancing.
Fans who do get into the stadium will be able to register for the Vol Access Gameday Pass, which brings users the sights and sounds of gameday through their computers or smartphones. The pass will also include behind-the-scenes features, streams and exclusive footage.
The pass will be free for the South Carolina game and will cost $4.99 per game or $40 for the whole season. Cheerleaders will also be in the stands, and only the football teams and referees will be allowed on the field.
"Morale is good," Ryder said. "The kids are just excited to have band."