When 100,000 fans shuffle into Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium on game day, for many, the party has already begun. In parking lots and beside pick-up trucks, barbecue roasts and beer cans are cracked open as laughter fills the air with Texas spirit.
Win or lose, Longhorn fans have been attending UT tailgate events for generations. While some consist of fancy outdoor parties with barbecue pits and TVs tuned to the game, others consist of simple celebratory gatherings with chips, salsa and pre-game fun. No matter the level of intensity, all start early and end late.
“It has nothing to do with winning or losing,” alumnus Ron Longwood said. “It has to do with following and being a fan of the Longhorns.”
For many, the experience is more about the camaraderie and celebrating with fellow Longhorns than the final score. Longwood said over the years, the tailgate moments he cherishes most are those spent meeting new Longhorns, watching them celebrate with their loved ones and being able to do the same himself.
Alumna Kay Andrews said her family’s tradition of tailgating began when she met her husband, Fred Andrews, at UT in 1964. At first they attended games sporadically, then more regularly after moving to Austin and their children becoming UT students. Their tailgates have now grown to be known as “Coach Andrew’s Tailgate.”
“They thought my husband was a coach because our daughter had painted on his chair 'Coach Andrews,'” Kay Andrews said. “For years they would see ‘Coach Andrews’ on his chair and they thought he was a real coach. They just kept calling him coach and everybody else started calling him coach.”
Their tailgate events have since regularly hosted family and friends, seen appearances by Longhorn Singers and even been visited by the late Judge Harley Clark, creator of the hook ‘em sign.
“We have had a good time over the years trying to keep it going,” alumnus Fred Andrews said. “Thanks to other people participating, it is coming along quite well.”
Although tailgaters like Andrews didn’t start tailgating until they stepped foot on the 40 Acres, others have bled orange since childhood. Austin local Jeremy Chavarria may have graduated from Concordia University, but he is still an avid fan of UT football after growing up in Austin and surrounding himself with Longhorns.
“A lot of the time, people think if you don’t go to UT, you can’t be a fan,” Chavarria said. “I grew up in this area. I love UT football.”
What started with buying $5 game tickets with his friends at Randall’s in the early 1990s has since become a large-scale tailgate, which Chavarria said has one of the best barbecue pits.
“The biggest part of it is being able to spend time with the kids, getting set up, watching other games before the game, (we) have a couple beers afterwards, clean up and see each other next week,” Chavarria said.
After more than a decade of unfaltering support for the Longhorns, Chavarria said his biggest disappointment has been seeing the flailing support from some tailgaters throughout the season when the team isn’t doing good.
He said it is important for fans to support both players and coaches — something he plans to keep doing.
Chavarria hopes his family’s future generations will continue rooting for the team that’s been a constant force in their lives.
“My daughter looks forward to (being a Longhorn),” Chavarria said. “I started (the tradition), my kids see it, (and) they enjoy it, so hopefully they will do it when they get older.”