By Tate Luckey —

When COVID-19 hit the sports world, officials scrambled to find a solution to allowing fans at games.

The NBA first proposed the idea of having “virtual fans.” Fans could pay to have a “seat” during the game and show up on the big screen, watching live.

The NFL, and by extension the NCAA, now feature fan cutouts, alongside limited capacity. The University of Louisville calls their section of cutouts “CardBoard Nation.” 

“The main goal with Cardboard Nation was to create the closest thing to a packed arena for our men’s and women’s programs so they still feel that love and support and give our fans the chance to still feel like they were a part of this season and to. Everything we do is for the fans and our athletes,” Austin Hertzler, assistant director of marketing for U of L Athletics, said.

The 2020 football season featured limited capacity, as well as pumped-in crowd noise. It was safer in this scenario because the stadium is outdoors. 

Katie Berry, director of marketing for athletics, said that they wanted to focus on things they could control. The challenge with basketball games though, is that the courts are all indoors.

The solution came from allowing anyone to pay $60 and submit a picture of themselves to have a cardboard cutout in the stands for the whole season.

Any appropriate image is allowed, ranging from your pet who watches alongside you to those who want to keep their decade-long attendance streak alive, to those who are miles away. “In true Louisville fashion, we even have a racehorse featured in one of the cutouts,”  Berry said. 

It’s unclear if having said cutouts helps maintain the ever-important “home-court advantage,” but the lack of fans definitely makes players and Card Nation more appreciative of their dedication.

While many of the staff are hoping that the 2021-2022 sports season will allow more of a full capacity, it is likely that the ’21 baseball season will feature some members of CardBoard Nation as well.  

“We’re hopeful members of Cardboard Nation can (eventually) be replaced with members of Card Nation,” Berry said. 

Fans can view their cutouts in a Facebook Album on the GoCards Facebook page.  But “If you’re watching one of our games on TV there’s a chance you’ll see it that way too,” Hertzler. The photos are updated as the season progresses. If you request it in your order, you can even have your cutout sent to you once the season is over.

File Graphic // GoCards Facebook