On Wednesday, the Texas Longhorns announced significant changes to the 2020 gameday experience at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.
Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott is on record opposing even 25-percent capacity at the stadium this season, but the Longhorns continue to move forward with plans to allow more than 20,000 fans at games.
Those plans could change quickly, as evidenced by Iowa State’s reversal this week — Ames is one of the biggest coronavirus hot spots in the entire world, so the administration decided to play at least the first game without fans.
Fortunately, the positivity rate in Austin is back down to 12 percent, around the levels of mid-June, and reported only 59 new cases on Wednesday, both significant improvements from the height of the pandemic in Texas.
The university is taking precautions to help ensure social distancing on gameday, including prohibiting tailgating in and around campus, including Tailgate Guys turnkey tailgating packages. In addition, Bevo Blvd., Smokey’s Midway, and Longhorn City Limits will take a one-year hiatus to reduce congestion around the stadium.
With the cancelation of Longhorn City Limits, the Deep Eddy Lounge is transitioning to the Deep Eddy End Zone inside Gate 8 and will continue selling Texas-themed cocktails. The Deep Eddy End Zone will open when the gates do and discontinue sales at the beginning fo the fourth quarter.
The Texas Athletics Hall of Fame in the north end zone will not be accessible this season, either.
Gameday will sound different, too, at least during the season opener against UTEP on Sept. 12, as the Longhorn band will not perform.
“Consultation with Dr. Amy Young revealed that there is not yet good research or even well understood case studies of the COVID risks associated with instrumentalists performing in close proximity, when outdoors. A laboratory study of aerosolization from musical instruments is underway at the University of Colorado and the University of Maryland,” the school wrote in a release.
If the band does play at football games this season, it will not have more than 60 members participating. In fact, the school does not currently know whether it will be able to field a well-balanced band from available students.
Here’s the list of in-stadium adjustments:
- Expanding the team area benches on the field will provide additional protection for our student-athletes and team personnel.
- Texas Cheer, Texas Pom, and Hook ‘Em will continue to be part of gamedays this season; megaphones will not be utilized.
- Bevo and Smokey the Cannon will remain in their traditional locations on the south end of the field.
- Eliminating most on-field gameday elements including marching band performances, Hook ‘Em Herd, and other on-field promotions
- No physical premium item giveaways to prevent additional touchpoints between fans and staff. Fans who have the Texas Longhorns mobile app and have Football notifications turned on can receive exclusive prizes, giveaways, and opportunities including “5 FREE Wings” from Pluckers Wing Bar when the Longhorns win. Other in-game digital opportunities will be added including Tiff’s Treats Delivery via text-to-win.
- Suspension of Longhorn Moments on-field experiences and seat upgrade opportunities for the 2020 season
- Longhorn Network will broadcast Texas GameDay pregame and Texas GameDay Final postgame shows live from a new location in the southeast corner of the stadium.
There are also a host of innovations to improve the at-home experience for fans:
- In partnership with Tagboard, the best social media content from fans using the hashtag #MyTexas across any platform will be featured on TexasSports.com, and selected content will even be displayed on the videoboard during the game. Fans who submit the best at-home reactions to in-game moments using the hashtag #MyTexas will have a chance to win great prizes from Texas Athletics and our corporate partners!
- Big 12 TV partners are allowing for more second-screen content providing more behind-the-scenes access than ever before such as:
- Texas field entrance
- Starting lineups
- Texas Tradition look-ins including Bevo, Smokey the Cannon, Texas Cheer, Texas Pom, and Hook ‘Em throughout the game
- In-app voting and polls on the official Texas Longhorns mobile app and social media will be featured in-venue on the videoboard and on TexasSports.com.
- The official Texas Football gameday program will be found each home and away game week on TexasSports.com and the official Texas Longhorns mobile app.
- At-home tailgating recipes of the week on TexasSports.com and social media
- Showcasing featured My Texas Fan Cutouts each game on social media
- Exclusive downloadable posters and backgrounds each home game week on TexasSports.com and the Texas Longhorns mobile app