Under normal circumstances, a major-conference football program debuting a new head coach would welcome fans to its season opener.

That wasn't the case Saturday for the Arkansas Razorbacks, who were playing their first game under Sam Pittman.

A message, posted around the stadium in Fayetteville, Arkansas, was this: "Thank you for NOT attending today's game."

That signage was directed at fans who showed symptoms of COVID-19 or were at risk, urging them to stay away this time. In Columbia, Missouri, similar signs mandated no gatherings.

The messages were a concession to the pandemic that shut down the nation and the sports world, delaying the start of the 2020 football season. The SEC marched forward with a cautious plan to start its season in late September while the Big Ten and Pac-12 canceled their seasons, then reconsidered.