Texas Tech alumna Alexandrea Torrez moved back to The Hub City from Dallas at the beginning of the pandemic. She says she’s excited to spend more time with family and is particularly looking forward to one fall tradition.
“Family gets together, a lot of laughing, catching up,” she said.
Torrez’s family tailgates at every Red Raider football game, a tradition started by her dad, a longtime university employee. They eat. They watch the game. They’re together.
“A lot of yelling. A lot of like, you know, anticipation and waiting and stuff like that. A lot of emotions going on," Torrez said. "Oh my gosh, now I’m missing football.”
The football season is on, but the game day experience will be different for fans.
As of the first day of classes at Texas Tech, Jones AT&T Stadium will be at 25% maximum capacity this fall. That’s roughly 15,000 people in the stands - and masks are required.
“I think that the 25% capacity is smart,” said Max Randolph.
Randolph is a Texas Tech alumnus who also grew up in Lubbock. We talked before The Big 12 Conference officially announced that football will happen this fall.
“At the end of the day, lives are more important than college football. I’m going to have some friends who say ‘dude, it’s college football.’ But, no. I strongly believe that 25% and keeping your mask on. Doing what our health officials say, that’s where I’m going to stand on that.”
Randolph graduated in 2017. He now lives in Williford, Arkansas - a 13-hour drive from Lubbock.
“You know, if Tech has football and there are tailgates there," he said, "I’m definitely going to make it to one game.”
Both Randolph and Torrez will be able to tailgate if they want to. Texas Tech Athletics announced Sunday that university-sponsored tailgates are canceled this year. But fans cans gather in groups of no more than 10 people with at least 10 feet between parties.
Kendell Senter is another alumna who lives in Lubbock. She and her husband bought season tickets for the first-time last year.
“I always get to the game early because my favorite part of the game is the Masked Rider running out at the beginning," Senter said. "If I miss that, I’m devastated.”
Earlier this month, she said she still planned to go to games in-person. But with fewer fans in the stadium, she said the energy will be unlike the fond memories she has of being in the rowdy student section.
“I would much rather be in the stands watching the game than at home watching it on TV and missing out on the experience," Senter said.
A fall in Lubbock with no football would’ve been a loss for more than fans.
“As bad of an economic impact as we can see in one particular weekend,” said Eddie McBride, president and CEO of the Lubbock Chamber of Commerce, had the season been canceled or delayed. Which was a possibility.
He said the season affects the regional economy by millions of dollars each year. In a time when a lot of businesses are just squeaking by, McBride said vulnerable places like restaurants and hotels that have struggled over the past few months will hopefully earn much-needed revenue.
There’s another group excited about playing ball this year – the actual team. Head Coach Matt Wells had this to say at a news conference soon after the Big 12’s announcement that the season would go forward.
“Those men just grinding and going to work every day," Wells said. "At some point, it just gets very heavy. And so, the decision to play, I know, lifted a lot of that. All of that.”
The Texas Tech Red Raiders’ season starts September 12 against Houston Baptist, followed by a conference home opener against The University of Texas on September 26.