Although there was a humid breeze in the air, the student section of TDECU Stadium was heating up on Thursday evening as people gathered and were ready to finally cheer on their Cougars to kick off the new season.
Since the beginning of the semester, students have been cautiously waiting for the return of football after five potential opening games got canceled or postponed due to coronavirus concerns with the opposing teams.
UH fans were finally able to attend a game in 2020 this past Thursday, but the shadow of COVID-19 was evident throughout the stadium.
“I was a little worried about coming at first and still am, but they are doing a pretty good job of social distancing and people are keeping their masks on,” said media production freshman Oscar Maese. “It’s fun being back out here. I missed it.”
As students entered the stadium, they were given a mask courtesy of UH athletics and the UH Alumni Association. Despite bringing their own, many students switched to their new mask that read “WE ARE HOUSTON,” which also served as a symbol of school unity.
“I feel like it’s awesome that we can still have a game even with the guidelines and masks, it brings out the school spirit,” said supply chain management freshman Jace Boatwright.
Along with mask safety, students were given an assigned seat in the stands so that they were socially distant. Each available seat had a “sit here” sticker ready to welcome fans and friends back.
Although there was assigned seating, it was not heavily enforced as students were free to move to a more spaced out area of the stands in order to be socially distant, which a few people took advantage of as the student section did get a bit crowded towards the middle of the game.
“We moved to an open section to try to distance ourselves from others,” said psychology freshman Janae Edmondson. “Since this is the first college game I’ve been to I expect a lot and I’m really excited.”
While no football experience would be complete without a variety of concessions, some students such as Boatwright avoided the lines, which had stickers on the floor to remind people to social distance as an added safety precaution.
“Other than masking up, I’m social distancing, cleaning my hands, not touching my face and I’m not getting any food here at the stadium,” Boatwright said.
Although this game looked quite different from games in the past due to COVID-19 protocols, it gave students a sense of hope and reminder of life before the pandemic.
“Coming to a football game makes life as normal on college campuses as it can feel and this has been one of the things I’ve been looking forward to,” said psychology pre-med junior Corbin Foster.
As the Cougars battled the Green Wave on the field, students got to enjoy a taste of the college experience that was the norm before the pandemic.
Houston also put on a show that sent the crowd home happy as they beat up on Tulane on the field.
With the Cougars returning to action next Friday against BYU, fans interested in experiencing the game this season should be prepared for a new feel at TDECU Stadium that will revolve around masks, social distancing, sanitation and above all else, football.
For more of The Cougar’s coronavirus coverage, click here.