Tailgate festivities and traditions have returned to Bobcat Stadium in celebration of the 2021-22 football season. For the first time since the pandemic, Bobcat Stadium welcomes fans to pack the stands at 100% capacity.
The university's decision to open the stadium at 100% capacity and implement the return of tailgate at home games sparked a mixed bag of reactions from students. While some are excited to get back to Texas State traditions, others share concerns over the possible consequences large gatherings could bring under the COVID-19 pandemic.
Texas State hosted its first tailgate of the season on Sept. 4, during its home opener against Baylor. Over 26,500 people attended the game.
Ruston Breaux, a construction science management junior, enjoyed his experience at the tailgate and was glad to see it return this year. Breaux said he understands the concern students may have with tailgating and the spread of COVID-19; however, he believes students can still participate in tailgating activities.
“It’s something that we have to be careful about but it can be done safely,” Breaux said. “Just making sure that if someone feels sick then they need to go get tested and if we do get sick, we need to stay home.”
Breaux believes that it is up to the students to make the right decisions, and the university has done all it can do to help stop the spread of COVID-19.
“With Bobcat Trace, they are letting everyone know if you came in close contact with someone who got COVID-19,” Breaux said. “They are providing everyone with tests and vaccines on campus. I think the school is doing everything they can. Now it is up to the students to do everything safely.”
Last season, when the stadium operated at 25% capacity, fans were required to wear facial coverings and sit in designated reserved seats. In an Aug. 24 statement, Texas State Athletics acknowledged that "COVID-19 infections are on the rise," and recommended for students to continue to wear masks at games and get vaccinated.
Even with the concerns of the COVID-19 pandemic, Athletics has made a clear move to get fans to attend games. Texas State Football's Twitter account has used the #PacktheWack in multiple posts leading into both of its home games.
Bobcat Stadium also added new attractions for fans at football games such as Katzegarten and the Coca-Cola Fun Zone, which are both free on-field experiences featuring photos booths, games and food. There are post-game music concerts scheduled for Oct. 16, Nov. 6 and Nov. 13 as well.
These initiatives are part of new Director of Athletics Don Coryell's plan to make Texas State athletic events into an entertainment destination, as he stated in his introductory press conference on Aug. 5.
In a statement provided to The University Star, Coryell emphasized his desire to continue running the fan experience and football season as business as usual.
“We are excited to be back to normal operations regarding our tailgating and offering our fans a great opportunity to enjoy themselves amongst family and friends,” Coryell said in the statement. “We are hoping for a great and safe turnout all season long.”
However, this return "to normal operations" has instilled fear into some students. Alex Gonzales, a music studies junior, is required to attend games and tailgates as a member of the Bobcat Marching Band. Gonzales said he was not thrilled with the lack of COVID-19 guidelines in place given the number of people in attendance at the season-opener game.
“It is way too much,” Gonzales said. “The problem was how crowded everything was. There were a lot of people packed very close together, and that scared me. The idea that you can be outside and not wear a mask is assuming that you are going to be socially distanced, which they were not.”
Gonzales feels that tailgating can be a health risk for students and could bring consequences to those that attend games.
“I know freshmen that are getting notifications from Bobcat Trace six times a day,” Gonzales said. “How can we know that tailgating isn't causing that? If the university shuts down in a few months everyone is going to point at tailgating as the main reason.”