Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Advertise in our classifieds section
Your classified listing could be here!
October 4, 2022

Free SEC Celebration draws ‘tens of thousands’ into South Mall, causing overcrowding

Ricardo Lopez
A crowd watches the SEC Celebration amid scorching temperatures at the Main Mall on Sunday.

The University estimates a crowd of tens of thousands caused a “scary” atmosphere on the South Mall Lawn during UT’s SEC Celebration on Sunday.

The University put on a free celebration of Texas Athletics’ move from the Big 12 into the Southeastern Conference, including carnival games, a parade, food trucks and a headlining performance by Pitbull. The event was not ticketed.

The Main Mall reached capacity around 8:30 p.m., event organizers said. However, conditions worsened after the ceremony, causing SEC commissioner Greg Sankey to warn participants to stop “crushing” or the rest of the show would be shut down. 

Austin-Travis County Emergency Medical Services transported one individual with non-life-threatening injuries to a local hospital after a “crowd surge/crush” incident, the entity announced on X on Monday.

Lyza Cabading, 22, went to a medical tent after experiencing dizziness and nausea. After getting care, she saw people rush into the tent to get a better view of the fireworks, ceremony and Pitbull’s performance, she said. Cabading said she witnessed vendors and EMS personnel attempt to push back the crowd. 

“There’s no way that could have been real,” Cabading said. “A university that huge (which has) held events like football events and other events at that scale, you think that they (would) be able to manage that, but it didn’t feel real in terms of how badly mismanaged it was.” 

Nursing sophomore Kyana Fernandez arrived late, where she witnessed people leaving and telling her group not to go in. 

“We’ve been to crowded events before and weren’t too worried about it,” said Fernandez, who also works as an emergency medical technician. “But whenever I got there, my immediate thought was that it was super disorganized, there was barely any security (so) anybody could have gotten in and that’s a safety threat.” 

Fernandez, who grew up near Houston, said her mind kept thinking back to 2021’s Astroworld Tragedy, where a crowd crush of 50,000 attendees killed eight people.

“I started panicking,” Fernandez said. “(There were) already so many people, and I felt the crowd pushing and I got scared.” 

Fernandez said she and her friends moved to a less crowded area near a drink vendor where she was denied water. The vendor’s system was down, and they refused other forms of payment, referring her to one of the 14 water monsters at the event, she said. Fernandez, who is anemic, would have to push back through the crowd to the closest one across the lawn to get water. 

The University said the vendors reported no interruptions to transactions during the event. 

Psychology junior Audrey Lai left the event soon after arriving at 7 p.m. Her usual 10-to-15-minute walk to her apartment from the Tower took an hour due to frequent stops as Lai was nauseous and blacking out. 

“Every five to 10 minutes, I would start feeling really sick and faint again,” Lai said. “It was kind of like that for the rest of the evening.” 

Before leaving, Lai experienced pushing and crowding on the far side of the South Lawn as she tried to find a better view of the stage. The group decided to leave after her friends were “holding (her) steady” for almost an hour. It felt like she couldn’t breathe, she said. 

Lai still felt sick the next day, experiencing more nausea during her morning class.

​“I’m okay now, but I remember in the moment, I was telling all my friends, ‘I’m so scared right now,’” Lai said. “My other friend was actually not feeling well, too, and both saying how we (didn’t) know how we’re gonna make it out of here.”

More to Discover
About the Contributor
Kylee Howard, Associate News Editor
Kylee is a second-year journalism major from Waco, TX. She is currently an Associate News Editor but formerly served as a News Desk Editor.