Every Labor Day weekend is usually the start of college football season. Some of the top teams in the country meet in outstanding college kickoff games, and the nation would collectively smile and breathe a deep sigh of relief that college football is back for the next five months.

This year is much different.

That shouldn’t come as a surprise to many though. What isn’t different right now? I bet some of you didn’t even know college football started last week on Thursday night. There were even several games on Saturday.

Who played? No one that popular.

Central Arkansas and UAB kicked off the schedule on Thursday night. Southern Methodist vs. Texas State, Army vs. Middle Tennessee State and BYU vs. Navy takes the coveted Monday night game on Labor Day… which is much different than the usual battle of top 10 teams that play in that spot.

That is because close to half of the college football teams in the country aren’t having a fall season. Almost the entire FCS division and lower have opted to postpone their fall season until spring.

Two of the power five conferences, the PAC 12 and the Big Ten are not playing this fall.

Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State, UCLA, USC and Michigan State, just to name a few, are teams that bring in viewership from all over the country. Not to mention teams like Ohio State were supposed to compete for the national championship. It is almost like this season is going to have a big asterisk beside it in the history books.

College football doesn’t have a governing body that makes a universal decision. They have presidents, athletic directors and boards of governors that make decisions based on each conference, and then each team has to make that decision as well. That is how we have ended up with a college football season that will feature half of the teams that it should.

For college football enthusiasts, it doesn’t matter because they are going to watch anyone play. But for the casual fan, this will cause much confusion and may push them away from the game.

Some teams are allowing fans into their games at certain capacities, and others aren’t allowing anyone other than players’ families — another aspect that is sure to crush the feeling of a college football game day.

The atmosphere is what makes college football what it is. I spent many Saturdays in Charlottesville watching UVA football, but the best part of the day was the pre-game tailgates.

It didn’t matter if it was a noon kickoff or 8 p.m., we were going to be out there at least three to four hours before kickoff. We were going to be in the parking lot with our grills and coolers playing music along with 50,000 other people. You aren’t going to be able to get that this fall, and that in and of itself is a disappointment.

Everything about this college football season is different, borderline weird. It just doesn’t have that same feeling. I don’t get excited to wake up on Saturday morning and watch College Game Day as they broadcast from an empty campus.

But we did this to ourselves. We couldn’t follow simple rules about COVID-19. We couldn’t just stay at home a little bit longer and wear our masks instead of making excuses.

So when you sit at home each Saturday and watch two teams battle it out in front of 10,000 fans instead of 100,000, when you cannot use your season tickets to watch your team play because they aren’t allowing you in, when you have to cook on your grill at home instead of in the parking lot with 50,000 of your closest friends remember that this all could have been avoided.

Until next time.

Johnathan Kirland is a sports writer for The Gazette-Virginian. Contact him jkirkland@gazettevirginian.com. Follow him on Twitter @JohnathanK_GV