LUBBOCK, Texas — Texas Tech football is back with its first game against Houston Baptist Saturday, but the game day experience will look very different this season to combat COVID-19.
Saturday’s game will be the first event or sports game the college has had since the pandemic started, and Texas Tech Athletics urged fans to help them follow the safety guidelines it’s been planning for months.
“The safety of our fans is of our first and foremost concern,” said Robert Giovannetti, Senior Associate Athletics Director/External Operations & Strategic Communications.
Face coverings and social distancing will be required at all times, and games have gone from 60,000 fan in the stands down to 15,000 with the stadium only allowing for 25 percent capacity this season. Stadium seating has been changed to ensure social distancing, and hand sanitizing stations are dispersed throughout the arena.
In one section, fans who can’t attend in person can buy cardboard cutouts — or “in-person Raiders” — of a picture of their choosing. They’re for sale for $50 on the Texas Tech football website.
“People can send in their picture of themselves or their dog or their cat,” Giovannetti said.
However, game day events outside of the stadium will look different too. Texas Tech is the only Big 12 school allowing tailgating this season. Red Raider fans can only tailgate three hours before kickoff and one hour after the game is over, and groups larger than 10 are not allowed.
Tickets are now 100 percent mobile. All fans have to do is show their phones to get their tickets scanned at the gate. Tickets are still for sale online or at the ticket office on game day.
Concessions have gone virtual too. Fans can now order both in-person from stands or online at texastech.ordernext.com or by using the Texas Tech game day app.
Giovannetti emphasized that he and the Texas Tech Athletics team took into account the whole game day experience both on and off the field when considering the safety measures for the season.
“It’s not just the game on the field, which is paramount, but it’s all the things that go along with it. Being able to be with your friends and enjoy yourself the entire game day. We’re not trying to take that away from anyone. No one wants to see these games played more than we do,” Giovannetti said.
While he said law enforcement will be there to help with traffic as in previous years, Tech Athletics is relying on fans to follow the rules and self police.
Giovannetti urged fans to help them keep their fellow fans and the players safe by adhering to the safety protocols. If there are violations of social distancing and mask wearing during the first home game, he said future games could be postponed or even cancelled.
“We think we have in place the best plan we have to do the best we can to keep our fans and our student athletes safe. It’s going to take some partnership, its’ going to take people doing their part … so help us and then hopefully next year in 2021, we’ll go back to what we’re all used to in a normal game day environment,” Giovannetti said.