NEW YORK—The 2021 college football season is under way—indeed, we’ve already seen some big games played in the Southeast and wild upsets in the Midwest. The current model, however, looks quite a bit different than the season we had a year ago. Of course, some things look the same—Alabama at No. 1 and talk about expanding the playoffs—but it would be hard to overlook the single biggest change this fall: the return of fans to the stadiums.
This is a double-edged sword, of course, but the return of some sense of normalcy to the world does count for something. It was fun to see all those Wisconsin fans doing the “Jump Around” in Madison a couple of weeks ago, and the return of the Clemson Tigers to their tradition of running Down the Hill and into Death Valley last week. Saturday night, more than 100,000 Penn State faithful will crowd into Beaver Stadium (all dressed mostly in white) as the Nittany Lions take on Auburn in the annual “White Out” game. 

While there is some risk, the good news is that many fans have been vaccinated and the games are outdoors. There also is a sense or belief that returning to familiar and pleasurable routines is good for the mind and spirit.

As Luxottica's Bart Welch notes, "In times where the world seems divided, college football always brings people together. No matter what team you cheer for or what division you follow, college football has the ability to bring people together." Yes, it certainly seems to do just that every fall on campuses across the country. 

So, albeit a little later than usual, here's a rundown from optical and eyecare executives on how they are looking at the 2021 college football scene three weeks into the season.

Dave Brown, at Andy Kerr Stadium in Hamilton, N.Y., with the now-retired Colgate mascot Raider.

At Colgate, Dave Brown worked as a sportswriter for the Colgate Maroon student newspaper and also spent time in the broadcast booth for the AM radio station's game coverage.

Dave Brown
President & CEO, IDOC

From 1983-1985, I was the “voice of Colgate Football” on AM radio with my friend Joe Meyer at WRCU Colgate University. In addition, I had duties as a sportswriter for the Colgate Maroon—the oldest college weekly newspaper, founded in 1868. Great times during some great seasons for Colgate as these were the first years of Division 1-AA for Colgate. 

We had a history of going up against marquee teams and holding our own. In fact, a high point in our long history on the gridiron goes way back to 1932 when legendary coach Andy Kerr led the team to an unmarred season … leading to the famous line, “Undefeated, untied and uninvited.”

Today, we are off to an 0-2 start, but hope springs eternal in the Patriot League and I do try to get back to Andy Kerr Stadium. I usually circle the Colgate vs. Bucknell game on the schedule (Oct. 30 this year) as my older brother went to Bucknell.

While the times have changed since the 1980s, I still enjoy listening to a game on the radio and I sometimes wonder what might have been if the announcing bug, or writing bug, had bitten me hard.

Jim McGrann, with his wife, Taryn, at the first game they attended at Spartan Stadium with their daughter, Taylor, in 2008.
Jim McGrann
Chairman & CEO, HEA + PECAA

I know most people feel that the holiday season is the most wonderful time of the year. For me, and I do love the holidays, the most wonderful time of the year is when fall is in the air and football season is back. Watching ESPN’s College Game Day with actual students and fans in attendance this year is exhilarating, given everything we have all been through the past 18 months. 
At our last HEA | PECAA company meeting, we did an icebreaker in which everyone announced their college football and NFL football teams. It was a lot of fun and there was plenty of good-natured trash talking.  
The college team I root for is the Michigan State Spartans. I went to Columbia back in the early 80s, and while I was there the football team began what is now the second-longest losing streak in college football history. Many thanks to Northwestern for taking over the No. 1 slot! 
Based on all of this, obviously I needed a real team to support. Fast forward to 2008 when my daughter Taylor started her freshman year as a Michigan State Spartan. I became an immediate fan and remain one to this day. 
What an amazing four years it was. In 2007, the University of Michigan beat the Spartans and Wolverine running back Mike Hart famously uttered the statement, “Beating Michigan State, for us, is like beating your little brother.”  
The Spartans went on to beat the Wolverines the next four years. In 2012, at Taylor’s graduation, every presentation ended with, “And, oh by the way, you are the first class to beat Michigan all four years since 1960.” The crowd went wild! 
Mark Dantonio was the coach during those years. He is an amazing leader and motivator. I have tremendous respect for Coach Dantonio. The current coach is Mel Tucker, who has the Spartans off to a great start this year. He, too, is an awesome leader and a real players’ coach. The Spartans are 2-0 heading to Miami this weekend to face the U. And it will definitely be a test, but We Are Spartans! Go Green!

Scott Jens, OD, and his wife, Cheryl, plan to attend games at Camp Randall Stadium this season with the necessary precautions.
Scott Jens, OD
Founder, Sandbox, Executive Business Coaching

Another season of Wisconsin Badger football is upon us, bringing hope for a return to the Big Ten Championship game and the Rose Bowl. The season start has shown that the team has a stellar defense, but needs to work out some issues on offense. 
Our family is attending games, with necessary precautions as the delta variant continues to impact many people. The allure of Camp Randall Stadium and its trademark “Jump Around” celebration is a can’t-miss! 
Following in our footsteps, my wife, Cheryl, and I have seen all three of our children attend UW, with the third one there right now, and we are thrilled to be able to see her joy of the game day experience.
On Wisconsin!

Mark Schaeffer, OD, and his daughter, Libby, get ready to cheer on the Dawgs before the UAB game earlier this month.
Mark Schaeffer, OD
Clinical Field Manager, Birmingham, Ala.

It’s time for another season “Between the Hedges” in Athens, Ga., as the Bulldogs kicked off their season with impressive wins over Clemson (the reigning ACC champion) and UAB (reigning C-USA champs).
The expectations are sky high for coach Kirby Smart and the Dawgs this year, with loads of talent on both sides of the ball. Injuries at wide receiver and offensive line are the biggest question marks for the rest of the season, but UGA will lean on its defense to lead the way. 
As much as I’d love to make it back to Athens for a game, I’m loving just getting to show my enthusiasm and teach my daughter Libby the joys of college football. The pageantry, camaraderie and community of being a Dawg is quite special.
As always, “Gooooooo Dawgs! Sic ‘em! Woof! Woof! Woof!”

Bart Welch with his wife, Vicki, attending Clemson’s big game against Georgia to start the 2021 season.

Bart Welch
Director of Key Accounts, Luxottica

It’s that time of year... And in my family, it is the best time of year. Coming off a weird and whacky 2020 college football season, where games were postponed or even canceled, I am excited that Death Valley will be full again with 80,000-plus of our closest friends, all cheering the Clemson Tigers from the time they run down the hill until the final seconds of the fourth quarter. 

In times where the world seems divided, college football always brings people together. No matter what team you cheer for or what division you follow, college football has the ability to bring people together, celebrating the achievements of these student athletes and of course….. Looking for another National Championship for their home team.

Reflecting on the first two weeks of this season….. This is going to be an EXCITING RIDE!!!

Keith Cross enjoys his visit on the field with former Notre Dame coach Lou Holtz.
Keith M. Cross
Co-Leader, PPG Optical Monomers & Coatings

With the 2021 season off to an “OK” start for my University of Notre Dame Fighting Irish—I am still very optimistic about the rest of the season! After a close win over Florida State on the road and another at the home opener vs. Toledo, I am hoping that the Irish have been able to shake off all the rust.

There are a lot of new faces in the lineup, especially QB Jack Coan, who transferred from Wisconsin. The Irish return with one of strongest run games in the nation with Kyren Williams and Chris Tyree. The team should find its identity soon and start to perform like a Top 10 team.

And they have—the easy part of the schedule is over and Notre Dame faces Wisconsin, Cincinnati, Virginia Tech, USC and North Carolina all before Halloween. If they can run the table, it’s college football playoffs here we come! Go Irish!

Bryan Hoban, with his daughter Brooklyn, and his wife Keely Hoban, OD, at a Ducks game during a past season.

Bryan Hoban
MBA Manager, HEA + PECAA

The Oregon Ducks are off to a fantastic start after upsetting Ohio State on the road last week! Doing so with a number of top defensive starters out showed the toughness and grit that coach Mario Cristobal and Duck fans want to see.
It will be very interesting entering Pac 12 play, as many teams in the conference are off to a lackluster start (aside from the Ducks and UCLA). Oregon traveling down to Pasadena on Oct. 23 to take on former coach Chip Kelly and UCLA could be a major determining factor in the conference’s chances at a playoff team.
It’s great to have college football back on a normal schedule with fans in the stands! Go Ducks!

Michael Cymbor, OD, FAAO, and his wife, Autumn, attending Penn State’s 2021 home-opener against Ball State last weekend.
Michael Cymbor, OD  
Nittany Eye Associates, State College, PA 

With our practice named Nittany Eye Associates and with a wife who is a PSU alum, of course we are pulling for our hometown Nittany Lions. The 2021 Penn State football team started strong with 2 wins in a row, over ranked Wisconsin and a surprisingly good Ball State team. With five Big 10 teams ranked in the top 25, Penn State will have its work cut out for them this season. 

ESPN Game Day is scheduled to be in Happy Valley this weekend for our “white-out” game against No. 22 ranked Auburn. In addition to Auburn, tough foes include Iowa, Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State. With a good offense and strong defense, we should be in the thick of it when the season winds down. 

As I mentioned previously in this column, my daughter Avery, attended Clemson and graduated in May. One of my all-time favorite college football memories was attending the National Championship with her in 2018, when Clemson dominated Alabama. While the Tigers lost a close first game to current No. 2 ranked Georgia, Dabo Swinney has the Clemson team moving in the right direction. With a defense as good as this year’s Clemson team, there is little doubt that the Tigers will be in the 4-team playoff discussion.

Maurice Hilt, a devoted fan of the “Black and Gold,” attended Purdue’s Homecoming game in 2019 and will be back in the stadium for a couple games again this fall.
Maurice A. Hilt
Project Manager—Strategic Operations, Keplr Vision 

Having live games this fall is Absolutely Amazing, especially the Big Ten rivalries. I expect some upsets this year, with a Big Ten team winning the National Championship.

I bleed Black and Gold for the Purdue Boilermakers, who are currently undefeated and will have a Bowl Game appearance this year.  And I am planning to attend both the Homecoming and Oaken Bucket games.