Texas Longhorns opening 2020 college football season against UTEP
AUSTIN, Texas - It is game week for UT Austin! Thousands of fans are expected at the stadium for the first home game against UTEP.
Head coach, Tom Herman hopes the game will remain the first of many. "You know, things I'm worried about is making it through the dang season. We've gotta be able to sustain this level of diligence this entire season which for a group of a hundred 18 to 22-year-olds is gonna be difficult but certainly not impossible," he said Monday.
Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority, Dr. Mark Escott has criticized the plan as too dangerous during a pandemic. "Quite frankly, I think it’s going to be a struggle for us to even allow teams to play on the field without the crowd," Escott said at a Travis County Commissioners meeting in late July.
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Fans will be in the stands this weekend, though stadium seating capacity will be cut to 25 percent.
Freshman, Cheney Stephenson will be at the game. He bought the "big ticket" this year. It gives him access to most of the school's home sporting events. "It was a lot of debate, but in the end, it came down to, it was a good deal and if I got the chance I didn't want to miss out," he said.
Stephenson says he feels comfortable with the regulations in place. Masks are required. Social distancing markers will be placed at entry gates in an effort to reduce crowding as fans arrive at the game. "We plan on adhering to that obviously and so, just have a good time," Stephenson said.
Fellow freshman, Sumati Srivastava says she is staying home. "We have so many cases, just in my dorm, dorms around here. It's exploding. It's gonna be a disaster. Like, it's gonna end up shutting us down," she said.
Bevo Boulevard, Smokey's Midway and Longhorn City Limits will all be closed.
Tailgating on and around the UT campus is banned, though alcohol sales in the stadium will be expanded. "Necessary precaution, if they even want to have a conversation about doing the season," said senior Matt Coker.
Stephenson says it "really does suck but if it's what has to happen to get all this to go away then do it."
"Tailgate Guys" a company that sets up tailgates for fans at more than 50 universities including UT Austin has had to pivot. They are now offering to set up tailgates at homes, and businesses.
"Ultimately, you know the health and safety of our guests is the number one priority." said Austin GM, Kara Thibault.
Things remain uncertain for the Longhorn band.
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They will not play this Saturday, as studies continue on if and how the virus may spread through instruments. "I mean obviously you're blowing into those instruments they're gonna spread whatever germs you have." said freshman, Srikar Mamillapalli.
Other changes include entirely mobile tickets. Cash will not be accepted at the stadium. Hand sanitizers will be placed throughout the stadium and masks will be required. The Frank Denisus University of Texas Athletics Hall of Fame will be closed. There will also be a new rideshare zone.
"We wish it could be different, but we're still gonna be there cheering for our Longhorns," said Stephenson.