No tailgates. No Bevo Boulevard. No concerts. Only 25% seating. This will be a unique season for Texas fans, including the mascot Hook 'Em — the Big 12 isn't letting human mascots do their thing on Saturdays, either. (Suzanne Cordeiro/American-Statesman

Football

Texas requiring fans to wear masks at games as AD believes ‘There are better days ahead’

Del Conte on all the fan changes: ‘We just have to be patient and go forward to the best of our abilities’

Posted September 5th, 2020

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Nobody loves Bevo Boulevard more than Texas athletic director Chris Del Conte. It crushed him to cancel it for this season because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Canceling the game-day spectacle that draws thousands outside Royal-Memorial Stadium, the pregame concerts on the LBJ Lawn and the team walk down San Jacinto Boulevard is just one of the many disappointments about this season. But at least the Longhorns are still going to play.

“Obviously we worked so hard to create an unbelievable game-day experience,” Del Conte said on Saturday. “That was something we’ve focused a lot of our attention. As I told everyone, it takes about three years to change a culture, and this was year three.

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“But we know we’ll come back bigger and better for years to come,” he added. “But this year, we know we’re trying to create the safest possible experience for all of our fans.”

Del Conte and other Texas officials spent Saturday walking Royal-Memorial Stadium in something of a test run for next Saturday’s season opener against UTEP. This fall will be dramatically different for fans, and in many respects, Ut is asking for some “help-us help-you” understanding to keep everyone as safe as possible.

Texas fans will have a much different game-day experience this season, both in and outside Royal-Memorial Stadium. For starters, the stadium that seats 100,000 will only have about 25,000. “But we know we’ll come back bigger and better for years to come,” UT athletic director Chris Del Conte said. (Nick Wagner/American-Statesman)
Fans must wear a mask at all UT sporting events, the school announced, and there will be masks at the gates for those who don’t have one. Ushers will be walking around making “friendly, gentle reminders asking fans to help,” Del Conte said.

Tailgating has been banned for this season. Fans need to follow social distance guidelines. And more than anything, Del Conte said, fans need to be understanding.

“We’re trying to live through the current situation that we’re in,” he said.

RELATED: Updated stadium map of Royal-Memorial Stadium with new gate, mobile ticketing locations

The pandemic has greatly disrupted daily life on the UT campus.

About three-quarters of the student body is taking classes online this fall. Those who are on campus have free access to COVID tests through the University Health System.

The school has spent at least $500,000 on COVID testing for Longhorns players to get tested three times per week, according to Big 12 guidelines. The volleyball, soccer and basketball teams have been tested repeatedly, too. Staffers have worked remotely for months, only coming in when it’s absolutely necessary.

Everyone who works for UT athletics learned last week they’ll take a pay cut through Aug. 31, 2021 because of the pandemic. Some were furloughed, and the school said 35 staffers were laid off and 35 more staff positions will be eliminated.

If fans can’t follow the school’s established guidelines, UT officials said, it could lead to COVID breakouts and the possible elimination of fan attendance all together.

“We’ve been working the last five months on how to safely bring our student-athletes, coaches, our staff back with the hopes and intentions of playing football games and all of our sporting events this fall,” said Drew Martin, UT’s director of external operations.

“We would ask our fans help us continue to be able to have fans in the stands by following the recommended social distancing guidelines, the best practices, the social distancing guidelines to help us be the safe we can be.”

Del Conte said he’ll have more precise numbers this week as to the actual attendance. But officials are planning on about 25% stadium capacity inside the stadium. That’s about 25,000 tickets. Students are getting tickets, as will the players’ family members. But the majority are going to season ticket holders.

Ticket holders will be assigned specific gate entries so there’s no bottleneck anywhere. UT is planning on one-way aisles in the stands, and the school is expanding its concession service to allow for mobile ordering on the Texas Longhorns app.

“A college football game is all about the pomp and circumstance of your culture on full display during the game,” Del Conte said. “That’s why college football is uniquely a college game.

“It’s just going to be different this year, and we know it’s going to be different this year,” he added. “But we know there are better days ahead. We just have to be patient and go forward to the best of our abilities.”

Contact Brian Davis at 512-445-3957. Email bdavis@statesman.com.

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