It’s October, and that means the school year’s greatest spectator sport is just around the bend. Up and down the eastern seaboard, thousands of people are packing coolers, filling minivans and donning themed clothing in anticipation of the annual event. In New Haven, hotels are booked; meter maids are on high alert; and the nearest fancy restaurant with reasonable dinnertime reservations still available is probably in Hamden.

That’s right — it’s Parents’ Weekend, and, particularly for underclassmen, proud Yale moms and dads with the coffee mugs to prove it are coming to the city to take a look around. Students everywhere will be putting off studying for midterms, hiding anything incriminating under the bed, and trying to come up with ways of entertaining grandparents and cousins that don’t involve waking up before noon. There will be afternoon museum tours and extracurricular open houses to dazzle, evening sketch comedy shows, faculty lectures, and coffee and doughnut receptions galore. And of course, there will be plenty of a cappella.

But because of a scheduling snafu beyond the control of University administrators, almost no athletic events are scheduled for this year’s weekend. So while some doe-eyed parents will be watching students perform around campus Saturday, many others will be visiting Yalies at Dartmouth, where the football, field hockey, volleyball, and men’s and women’s soccer teams are scheduled to play. It is unfortunate that there will be no opportunity for parents to watch student athletes play on their home turf, no caravan to the Yale Bowl with Bookstore-bought thermoses and afghans on a too-cold afternoon, and no commemorative Parents’ Weekend Saybrook strip.

The scheduling fluke does not only prove inconvenient for Yalies who would have planned days around games. It is also regrettable that at a time when the Yale community is supposed to be at full capacity and the campus uniquely active, a good number of the activities have relocated to Hanover.

What is a Parents’ Weekend without football? It will just be a spectator sport without actual spectator sports. Relatives and friends will still come in the true spirit of the event: to fill bellies, pad wallets, and shake heads in mock disbelief at the size and condition of dorm rooms on Old Campus. Night owls and committed sports fans will have the basketball teams’ first Midnight Madness. Everyone else will have concerts, performances or trips to Wal-Mart for extra-large boxes of Pop-Tarts and bottles of detergent.

Athletics or not, all the old Parents’ Weekend rules still apply: They’re coming with binoculars to watch the Yale show. Clean your room, do your laundry, and avoid smelling like cigarettes or vodka, so they can leave feeling like they’ve gotten their money’s worth on tickets. And pray that next year, for the sake of all involved, there’s a football game where they can wear their “Yale Parent” T-shirts and that you make dinner reservations well enough in advance.