The Longhorn Hellraisers will be front and center in the student section as the Texas football team takes on UT El-Paso to open the 2020 season, but this fall will look far different for the spirit group than it has in the last 32 years.
Texas Athletic Director Chris Del Conte announced Aug. 16 that Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium will operate at 25% capacity this season, and UT announced Aug. 3 it will prohibit groups of more than 10 from sitting together in the stands. This means that the Longhorn Hellraisers, who pride themselves on packing the student section, will need to adapt.
“It’s really important that we make sure the spirit and the integrity of the organization isn’t lost,” Hellraisers Vice President Avery Matheson said. “We still want people to feel our presence around campus and at games, but safety is so important. Right now, we are working on how we can balance safety and spirit at the same time.”
Matheson, a speech-language pathology senior, has worked with her colleagues to come up with a plan to keep members safe while still supporting Longhorn teams. The group is currently holding all meetings and get-togethers on Zoom and is working on a staggered arrival strategy at sporting events to maintain social distancing. While no plans are concrete due to the uncertainty of this season, Matheson said the Hellraisers are trying to stay flexible and upbeat.
“The information changes every day, so we don’t have anything really specific just yet,” Matheson said. “We have had eight plans so far, and each one keeps changing. We are trying to make sure we don’t get washed up with the circumstances.”
The one certain thing about this unpredictable year is that the Hellraisers will have the opportunity to attend games in person, which Hellraiser Maddie Ott said is more crucial now than ever.
“It is going to be important, especially this year, for the Hellraisers to show up and show out,” said Ott, a government and French studies sophomore. “The energy we bring is infectious. Since we don’t have the massive crowds this year, we need to be on our game supporting, cheering and encouraging our athletes.”
While it is important to support the athletes on the field, the Hellraisers think they also have the ability to set the tone for how strictly the student body follows required safety precautions, Hellraiser Max Lidstone said.
“When you look at the Jumbotron, nine to 10 times a game you will see the Hellraisers,” biology junior Lidstone said. “If people see us taking the social distancing guidelines seriously, they will be more likely to follow suit. I think we are going to have to set the example.”
The Hellraisers typically add the majority of their members during the fall semester. While the Hellraisers are still actively seeking new students, their strategies have shifted online, fifth-year Hellraiser Logan Kuenstler said.
“We usually set up a booth on Speedway to recruit people as they walk by and invite them to parties and get-togethers with us,” marketing senior Kuenstler said. “(This fall), we are mainly going to be reaching out online through Facebook and Instagram due to COVID-19. We are planning on revamping our social media presence.”
After a long offseason that almost saw the upcoming season escape them, the Hellraisers are thankful to have an opportunity to do what they love.
“The University is doing their best to offer some sense of normalcy, and normalcy for spirit groups like ours is being able to attend games in person and go crazy,” Ott said. “Win or lose, we are still there to make sure that everyone in the athletic department knows we support them.”