A new normal

UT Austin kicks off new football season with big changes for fans

UT Austin kicks off new football season with big changes for fans

UT Austin football stadium aerial view
Going to a game is much different this year. Photo by dszc/Getty Images

The first Longhorn football game of 2020 is just a month away, and in anticipation, Texas Athletics has released new guidelines for the upcoming season.

Among the biggest changes in this time of social distancing is how many people will be in attendance. With its 100,000-plus capacity, DKR-Texas Memorial Stadium is one of the biggest venues in sports, and it's still undetermined if it will operate at 50 percent or 25 percent capacity when the Longhorns take the field on September 5 for their first game.

In his fall planning update, released on July 29, UT interim president Jay Hartzell said the school has "been exploring a range of scenarios surrounding crowd attendance for upcoming football games." At the behest of the Board of Regents, it's also mapping out the possibility of hosting games at 25 percent capacity. 

"As rates in Austin and throughout Texas continue to ebb and flow, we must be agile and work consistently to develop strategies to protect the safety of our student athletes, coaches, staff members, students and all who visit our campus for athletic events," Hartzell said in the update. "As we approach the start of the football season, we will closely monitor the spread of COVID-19 and make final decisions based on the guidance of our Board of Regents and state health officials in the coming weeks."

Regardless of what capacity they choose, attending a football game is going to look different this year, beginning with the tickets. For 2020, all tickets will be digital, and all transactions inside the stadium will be with credit or debit cards (no cash). In keeping with school policy, UT will only allow clear bags into the stadium. All wallets, purses, and clutches that are not plastic must measure less than 4.5 inches by 6.5 inches.

Fans must also enter the assigned gate on their mobile ticket and, once inside, practice social distancing, frequently wash hands, use hand sanitizer, and wear face coverings throughout the game. Employees will wear face masks and concession stand workers will don masks and gloves and some will be behind Plexiglass, according to the new guidelines.

Texas Athletics has also installed hand sanitization stations (side note: UT also now has an "official hand sanitizer provider") and says it will continue to disinfect high-touch areas along with point-of-sale locations, restroom facilities, bag check locations, and other common areas.

While in the stadium, attendees must sit in groups less than 10 and maintain social distancing practices. And, as mentioned, unless one is eating or drinking, fans must wear masks for the duration of the game.

And, of course, if one is feeling ill or has been in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, please stay home.

Tailgating isn't immune to the new regulations either. Party-goers must adhere to "all local and state COVID-19 safety requirements in place at the time of the tailgate."

“Our priority is to create the safest gameday environment for our student-athletes, coaches, game officials, fans, staff, and visiting teams,”  said Chris Del Conte, UT director of athletics, in a release. "Whether you are attending with us in-person on gameday, or engaging with us from afar, your support is the lifeblood of our program. Gamedays at DKR-Texas Memorial Stadium are one of the most revered traditions in college sports, and we can’t wait to see the Burnt Orange and White faithful cheering on our teams this fall.”

See a comprehensive list of the new guidelines here.