When it comes to the college experience, football season is one of the most memorable elements for a student. The roaring cheers from the student section, blaring instruments from the Goin’ Band from Raiderland and flying tortillas all make Texas Tech’s a little more unique.
But like so many of my fellow students, I started this football season in a place I could not have imagined a year ago — at home, on my couch.
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, Tech decided to switch to $10 first come, first serve single-game ticket purchases for students. Typically, students enrolled in four or more credit hours are granted access to athletic events after paying a fee at the beginning of the semester.
The Student Athletic Fee is $61.20 and charged per semester, according to Tech athletics. The fee was reimbursed back to students this semester.
Whether due to health concerns, financial limitations or missing the sale, many students including myself chose to watch the game from home.
The experience at my home was strange. Watching alone, I found myself less engaged in the game than I remember being when I was physically there. I did not find myself cheering and yelling as I usually do.
There’s also a sense of pride and school spirit when coming back to campus on Monday after a win over the weekend. That feeling seemed rather dim this week, perhaps a result of not watching the game beside thousands of my classmates.
The attendance at this year’s home opener was 11,157 fans, according to an announcement made at the game. With Jones AT&T Stadium mandated to only reach 25 percent capacity this fall, it’s a bleak contrast to the 54 percent of fans who were reported by Tech athletics at last year’s opener against Montana State.
For those at the game, the lack of fans was produced noticeable differences in the atmosphere.
I talked to Brent Beitel, a sophomore sport management major, and he noticed the students weren’t as rowdy and sense people were unsure if they were supposed to cheer.
The lack of fans may have had an effect on the actual game as well as well.
On Saturday, Tech defeated Houston Baptist by just two points after they went into the game as 41.5 point favorites according to BetMGM. While the lack of noise inside the stadium likely gave both teams the chance to communicate more clearly, it also may have been a disadvantage to Tech as the home team.
Beitel said he sat right behind the Houston Baptist bench, and he could hear their players loud and clear, so the Tech players on the field could probably hear them as well.
The crowd noises normally drowned them out, but since it wasn’t a packed stadium, Tech wasn’t able to feed off that energy they normally have, Beitel said.
The protocols on game day are new adjustments, the fans wishing to attend in-person have had to account for. To enter the stadium you must wear a face covering, according to Tech athletics. Social distancing is encouraged while you are seating and walking around the stadium. Student cooperation seemed to go well for the Red Raiders’ first game.
Beitel said he thought students followed protocols well for the most part. There were some people without masks, but he felt safe since there was a comfortable amount of distance between everyone.
The next chance fans will have to see a game in Lubbock is Sept. 26 when the Texas Longhorns come to town. For what many believe is Tech’s biggest rivalry, this game is a great chance for students who want to witness a game in-person.
While there may only be a fraction of the fans present as there was last season, there’s still nothing quite like game day in the Jones. Even in the midst of a pandemic, there’s still plenty of opportunities for students to witness these games that are remembered for a lifetime.