Longhorn Band members concerned about performing at fall football games

Stephen Wagner

When Judson Hayden first heard that Big 12 schools had reached an agreement restricting travel for visiting bands during the 2020 football season, he wasn’t frustrated or angry — he was thankful. 

“At first, I was relieved,” said Hayden, junior Longhorn Band saxophone player. “It’s nice to know our health and safety is being kept in mind. That and the health and safety of the people who were going to be at the games.”

The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal first reported on July 6 that Big 12 bands and spirit groups will not travel to road games for the 2020 football season, with the possible exception of the Texas-Oklahoma game at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas. Several Longhorn Band members hope for a game day experience but are wary about how it might impact safety in the wake of the pandemic and fall sports cancellations throughout the country. 

Hayden and junior clarinet player Mercy Ogunlade said they would not attend any football games in the fall, home or away, if the decision was solely theirs. Ogunlade said she disagrees with the University’s attempts to make concrete plans for the fall. 

“Deep down, I’m not super proud of how UT and the athletic department has been dealing with COVID,” Ogunlade said. “I definitely think (UT) should have made a plan way sooner because we’ve known about this virus for months.”

Hayden and Ogunlade expressed concern about catching or spreading COVID-19 by performing at football games, particularly since they both know people who have contracted the virus. Hayden says he’s not sure if he trusts others to follow health and safety guidelines, and that it may be too much to expect at a football game.

“I’ve seen people not wearing masks; I’ve seen people not taking the precautions they need to take at stores and grocery stores. To expect that at a football game is a little bit much,” Hayden said. “(UT Interim President Jay Hartzell) said trust was going to be an important factor in reducing the spread of coronavirus on campus, but we’ve seen how well that approach goes. I don’t think it’s safe to trust everybody in Austin to maintain those guidelines.”

Junior clarinet player Leonard LeGrand is amazed that the first fall without football on the Forty Acres since 1893 is a possibility and is losing faith that a season will even be played at all.

“Going into college, I never expected something like this to happen because it’s never happened in my life before,” LeGrand said. Adding that it’s “completely bizarre,” he’s still open to performing at football games in the spring.

With the Big 12’s travel restrictions on visiting bands and spirit squads now in place, Hayden, Ogunlade and LeGrand are left considering the missed memories associated with band travel trips. But if it keeps everyone safe, Hayden says it’s worth it.

“On one hand, it’s kind of frustrating and disappointing to see that we’re not going to have those experiences, but on the other hand, it’s a necessary step,” Hayden said. “If football being canceled or if the season being reduced to just the players on the field saves lives, then we should go about doing that.”