A sellout: COVID concerns cannot stop Texas-Arkansas full house

Christina Huang, Sports Reporter

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared as part of the September 10 Double Coverage flipbook.

No. 15 Texas will be taking its football talent to Fayetteville, Arkansas, on Saturday for a primetime matchup against the Arkansas Razorbacks. The Longhorns’ home opener last weekend marked a true return to normalcy for Texas Athletics, with KVUE reporting that most fans did not wear masks at the game.

Saturday’s first road game against Arkansas will take place in another stadium filled to the brim as Arkansas Athletics report that all seats have been sold out. The game against Texas is also Arkansas’ first sellout since 2017 against TCU.

Fayetteville’s 40/29 News reported that Arkansas will not require fans to provide proof of vaccination, negative COVID-19 tests or wear face masks in order to enter Arkansas’ Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium.

Yet, fans must comply with a University of Arkansas policy that requires face masks in indoor areas when social distancing is not possible. For fans, this policy means that both Longhorns and Razorbacks will be required to wear face masks in restrooms, gift shops or any other indoor areas in the stadium like concession stands.

Per the University of Arkansas’ Pat Walker Health Center, “Masks are required indoors — regardless of vaccination status — when at least 6-feet of social distancing can’t be maintained.”

Razorback Stadium will also have a COVID-19 vaccination site within its gates and a mobile vaccination site outside of the stadium, encouraging fans to get vaccinated.

In August, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson addressed the possibility of Arkansas football games being superspreader events.

“The players have done their job, with a high, high percent of vaccination,” Hutchinson said. “Let’s hope the fans reach the same high level of vaccination as they go to watch (the Razorbacks) perform on the athletic field.”

Arkansas Razorbacks head coach Sam Pittman told reporters on Aug. 24 that 91% of the football team was vaccinated.

As of Sept. 6, 42% of Arkansas residents are fully vaccinated, and Arkansas’ daily case average stands at 2,067 COVID-19 cases.

“If you’re in a crowded situation, whether you’re vaccinated or not, it is the recommendation that you put on a mask,” Fayetteville health officer Dr. Marti Sharkey said to 40/29 News.

Despite any coronavirus concerns, Texas head coach Steve Sarkisian conveyed excitement for Saturday’s Arkansas matchup.

“It’s a pretty cool game,” Sarkisian said. “Old Southwest Conference foes to meet. We have great respect for Arkansas. This football team plays hard, plays physical, they’re tough. Seeing them in their opener … it’s a brand of football that they’re proud of.”

On Aug. 4, United Airlines announced direct flights from Austin to Bentonville, Arkansas, and when the Longhorns kick off on Saturday, United is offering a direct flight for UT fans to make the trip to Fayetteville. Come Saturday, 80,000 fans will pack Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium with a great number of Longhorn hopefuls expected to be in attendance.