After Texas celebrated its win over then-No. 22 USC, Longhorn players and coaches headed down the tunnel, where they were greeted by hundreds of students waiting to cheer them on before they headed to the locker room.
“I want to start off by thanking our student body,” Herman said in his postgame press conference. “What an unbelievable display of support by them. That’s two weeks in a row that they have showed up en masse and really had a direct impact on the game.”
While much of the reason for the school-record 103,507 fans in attendance was attributed to the primetime matchup between the Longhorns and Trojans, it’s no secret that the new general admission policy has worked wonders in the first two games.
On Jan. 11, Texas Athletics announced the plan to transition out of the highly critiqued wristband policy, which restricted students to specific sections, and into a first-come-first-serve basis starting this season.
“We will hope that the seating changes will create a more energetic atmosphere in the stadium,” former athletic director Mike Perrin told The Daily Texan after the announcement. “… If the students are energized and the music is reverberating around the stadium, it just creates a much more enjoyable fan experience.”
On Saturday, the Texas student section was filled from top to bottom nearly an hour before kickoff. The size of the crowd this year has surprised many newcomers, including graduate transfer Tre Watson, who said the attendance at Texas’ spring game was the size of his regular season games at Cal.
“I didn’t really look too much into it last week so this week I was like, ‘Let me see how this really looks.’” Watson said after the game. “When you’re out there, you’re just playing football. You never get a chance to look around. Today I did, and it was crazy.”
Texas’ student section has come a long way from last year when gaping holes in the crowd could be seen on numerous accounts.
However, the general admission policy comes at an unfortunate time for seniors such as mechanical engineering major Will McNulty, who would have been guaranteed the best seats in the student section this year if the University still operated under the previous policy. Students now wait for the gates to open for more than three hours before kickoff, forcing them to choose between getting a good seat and participating in pregame festivities.
“I realize that it will be better in the long run but yes, I was disappointed,” McNulty said. “I will have to show up to games much earlier now and miss out on out-of-stadium and tailgating events in order to sit in better seats.”
McNulty said he got to the stadium one hour before kick off but was still forced to sit in the bleachers in the south end zone. While the timing may be unfortunate for seniors, McNulty admitted that there has been a noticeable improvement in the overall student experience.
After the game, athletic director Chris Del Conte flashed a grin as he complimented the record-breaking crowd.
“That’s what (Tom Herman and I) talked about: putting the ‘T’ back in Texas.” Del Conte told The Daily Texan.
The Longhorn student section will likely be packed once again as Texas prepares to host No. 17 TCU for an opportunity at another signature win in the Tom Herman era.