UT’s football stadium could be empty this fall, but its campus will be full through Thanksgiving

Local health officials said May 20 that large events such as UT football appear unlikely through the end of the year. (Christopher Neely/Community Impact Newspaper)
Local health officials said May 20 that large events such as UT football appear unlikely through the end of the year. (Christopher Neely/Community Impact Newspaper)

Local health officials said May 20 that large events such as UT football appear unlikely through the end of the year. (Christopher Neely/Community Impact Newspaper)

University of Texas football is scheduled to kick off its regular season at home on Sept. 5, however, local health authorities in Austin said May 20 that major events such as UT football and the Austin City Limits music festival appeared “unlikely” through the end of 2020.

Dr. Mark Escott, Austin-Travis County’s interim health authority told reporters such large events were the first to be turned off—with the cancellation of South By Southwest—and will be the last to come back. Escott said the community is working on a plan to help forecast what could be reasonable, but said the fluid nature of the virus makes projecting beyond two months “very challenging.”

“Looking through the end of December, we don’t have any indication at this stage that we would be able to mitigate risk enough to have large events here, particularly ones [with] over 2,500 [attendees],” Escott said. “Having said that, a lot is changing very quickly.”

Escott emphasized that several factors could make large events a possibility, including advancements in early stage treatment of the virus or rapid testing through saliva swabs that could be done at the gate of large events.

Neither UT Athletics Director Chris Del Conte nor anyone at the athletics department have commented on Escott’s forecasts, but Del Conte has, during the course of the virus, expressed optimism over the possibility of a football season. Since it is a state institution, UT does not fall under the jurisdiction of Austin or Travis County. Del Conte did not return calls for comment.


Earlier this month, NCAA President Mark Emmert said the organization would not mandate blanket rules regarding a return to sports since campus operations across the country are operating without uniformity.

“If a school doesn’t reopen, then they’re not going to be playing sports,” Emmert said. “It’s really that simple.”

State universities in California won’t return to campus for in-person classes in the fall; however, UT announced May 20 that students would return to campus for in-person classes and activities through Thanksgiving; however, after the fall holiday, students will remain home and finish the semester online. The UT Austin campus held 51,832 undergraduate and graduate students in 2018 according to official numbers.

“With COVID-19 still expected to be active this fall, we hope to avoid the possibility of students becoming infected during the Thanksgiving break and then spreading the virus to classmates upon their return after Thanksgiving,” the university said in their fall 2020 update on May 20. “We are still developing the details for how this new schedule will affect course syllabi, residence hall living and other key campus functions. We will continue to provide additional information as we move forward.”

In a typical year, the lineup for Austin City Limits would have already been announced; however, there has been no word from C3 Presents, the organization that puts on the annual music festival. Held during the first two weekends in October, Austin City Limits brings around 400,000 people to Zilker Park each year.

Neither C3 Presents, nor its parent company, Live Nation, returned requests for comment. It remains unknown whether the festival has booked artists or plans to sell tickets to the event any time soon.
By Christopher Neely
Christopher Neely is Community Impact's Austin City Hall reporter. A New Jersey native, Christopher moved to Austin in 2016 following years of community reporting along the Jersey Shore. His bylines have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Baltimore Sun, USA Today and several other local outlets along the east coast.


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