Longhorn students and fans could forget about the world’s issues for a little while as they sat on the edge of their seats, rooting for Texas victories in what amounted to an undefeated weekend for the Texas football, soccer and volleyball teams.
The pandemic sent the world into a tailspin in mid-March, halting all sporting events. As the number of COVID-19 cases continued to rise in the summer months, Texas fans didn’t know if they would be able to enjoy fall sports this semester. Now, with three separate programs winning a game this past weekend, the fan base is being rewarded for the long wait.
The sense of normalcy sports brought this weekend is important for the student body, marketing sophomore Brendan Pinkerton said.
“I think Texas Athletics is one of the biggest morale boosters on campus,” Pinkerton said. “Just take Saturday’s football game alone — that held all of campus’ attention for hours because of the type of thriller it was. I think it helps bring the campus together regardless of what is going on. It kind of gives us a sense of normalcy.”
Economics sophomore Conrad Vilven said the uncertainty surrounding fall sports during the peak of quarantine makes weekends like this past one even more enjoyable.
“I did not (see sports returning in this capacity), if I am being honest,” Vilven said. “I wanted to be optimistic, but I just didn’t see a way that we could have sports like this with everything going on, but that just makes it even better to me that it’s happening now.”
While some question the need for live sporting events and in-person attendance during the pandemic, UT fan Scott Smith said the University is taking the right precautions to ensure the safety of all participants. Smith has been a season-ticket holder for over 25 years and has a daughter at UT. He decided to hold onto his tickets even during the peak of uncertainty surrounding the upcoming year.
“I think Texas has led most institutions in regards to their testing,” Smith said. “I know my daughter has gotten three COVID tests on campus. They are obviously doing mostly remote learning and they test the students on the Friday before the game. I think they have gone above and beyond on some things, and quite frankly, maybe they’ve gone further than we even need to.”
Even though the arenas and stadiums are limited in capacity and subdued in regards to the usual atmosphere, UT fan Cody Owens said he is still thankful for the opportunity to attend sporting events. Owens, who attends as many as 10-12 Texas sporting events a year with Smith, said in-person attendance has helped him and others cope with the pandemic.
“It’s extremely important for everyone right now,” Owens said. “There’s a lot of negative things going on around us, but nothing else really matters when Texas or any other university is playing. They have their fans and everyone unites no matter what.”
Whether or not a Texas team wins or loses its game on a given night, they are providing hope and unity to an entire fanbase and university by stepping out onto the field. In a fall semester characterized by isolation, Vilven said Texas Athletics may be the thing keeping students united.
“It’s huge for the morale of the University,” Vilven said. “I think it brings a sense of community to everyone, even though everyone is isolated right now and doing their own thing. I think sports is the biggest thing right now that is bringing everyone together. It’s uplifting this entire University.”