Students weigh in on UT’s plans for stadium attendance

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Fans file into Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium before a game. Compared to an average attendance of more than 100,000 in 2011, DKR now sees roughly 89,000 fans per game.
Photo Credit: Jenna Von Hofe | Daily Texan Staff

It was strange for students to have an extended spring break and then finish the semester online. It will be just as strange to see a sparsely populated student section at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium this fall. 

Texas Athletics Director Chris Del Conte announced Aug. 16 that sporting venues will operate at 25% capacity, and the University will be enforcing rules allowing students to sit in groups of no more than 10 people. 

The attendance plans for football games and other fall sports have sparked debate within the student body on whether allowing in-person gatherings is the correct move. Harrison Berrier, electrical and computer engineering senior, said he thinks the guidelines set by the University have little chance of success.

“I see the plan as pretty unrealistic,” Berrier said. “The school has been implementing more and more rules, and it feels like they are slowly backsliding.”

Allowing in-person attendance is forcing students to weigh the risks, journalism sophomore Kennedy Grigsby said.

“I don’t plan on going to games because 25,000 people is still a lot,” Grigsby said. “I am not exactly sure how they are going to enforce social distancing and people keeping masks on. I don’t know how it is going to work to keep the students as safe as possible.”

In a time when students are being asked to practice social distancing, the University’s decision to allow people to attend football games this fall has led to confusion.

“I am getting some emails from the University saying this is an unprecedented time,” Grigsby said. “Then, I will get another email encouraging me to buy The Big Ticket. I have never been in a position where I am in charge of 50,000 people and their safety, but I have received some mixed messages overall.”

However, radio-television-film senior Elizabeth Garabedian said she’s happy the University is making an attempt to hold football games with in-person fans this fall.

“This is my last semester at UT,” Garabedian said. “I could have graduated last spring, but I wanted a last football season. I normally go to games with the same two to three people. If those friends were to go again and I trusted that they hadn’t been going to parties, I would go.”

The repercussions of the University’s decision will remain unknown until games are underway, but Berrier said student safety should be the highest priority. 

“I would love to go to football games, don’t get me wrong, but I think what is more important here is making sure the student body comes out safe,” Berrier said. “The way I look at it is, we can come out on the other side of the virus with a year that was pretty weird, or we can push on for the sake of normalcy and come out with a memorial of all the students lost to the pandemic.”