It’s a hot morning in August and on the athletics fields across from the Cullen Building, something is taking place that hasn’t been seen at Southwestern in 63 years: football practice.
With just a little over three weeks before they play their first home game, players in black and white jerseys are spread all over the fields working with their respective coaches.
“Push, push, push” one of the coaches can be heard saying to the players.
On the sidelines, parents are capturing the moment with their cameras and reporters from the local television stations are filming interviews with the players and coaches.
“It’s exciting to start a new program, to get things going, and to make a name for Southwestern and the football team,” first-year player Brandon Fieishchmann tells a reporter from one of the stations.
Fieishchmann is one of more than 100 players hoping to play for the Pirates this year. The players hail from high schools all over Texas, including some Southwestern has not drawn from before.
What’s it like to be part of the first football team at Southwestern in more than 60 years?
“It’s crazy!” said Bryan Hicks, who hopes to play quarterback for the team. “There are a lot of expectations and uncertainties, but I’m sure it will all work out wonderfully.”
Justin Pelt, another quarterback hopeful from Leander, is no stranger to playing on a brand new football team.
“I had to open the school (to football) at my high school, so I know what it’s like to do stuff like this,” Pelt said. “It’s a really cool process and I think it brings you closer to your teammates than a normal school.”
Several players on the team come from high schools with a lot of football traditions, but they said they are looking forward to starting new traditions at Southwestern.
“It feels pretty good to already be in history, pretty much,” said tight end Taylor Stephens.
The team’s new practice fields weren’t quite ready in time for their first practice Aug. 15, so they had to settle for practicing on the fields across from the Cullen Building – the same fields the original Southwestern football team played on from 1908 to 1951.
The team will play its first game on Saturday, Sept. 7, at 7 p.m. against Texas Lutheran University at Georgetown’s Birkelbach Field.
More than 1,300 members of the Georgetown community have already bought season tickets to watch the Pirates play. Head coach Joe Austin said this is the most sold by any school in NCAA Division III. The first 1,000 fans will receive free gold “rally towels.”
Students, faculty and staff may pick up free individual game tickets at the Robertson Center student proctor desk on Wednesday, Sept. 4, and Thursday, Sept. 5, from 8 a.m. – 11 p.m. or Friday, Sept. 6, from 8 a.m. – 12 p.m. Game day tickets are $8 each.
For those who can’t make it to the stadium, the games will be broadcast live online by K-MAC Sports. K-MAC Sports also is doing a weekly program with Austin that is broadcast live from Burger University on Wednesdays at 8 p.m. and is archived online. And, they are doing a live broadcast with Austin from Burger University before each game.
To help get fans excited about the first game, Southwestern has partnered with the City of Georgetown to sponsor a pep rally on the Georgetown Square beginning at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 6. The rally will take place on Eighth Street on the south side of the Courthouse Square, and will be followed by live music provided by the Kyle Bennett Band from 7:15-8:45 p.m.
No football game would be complete without tailgating, and university officials have worked hard to develop a plan for tailgating at all the home games that will be played this season. Tailgating will begin four hours prior to each game in the parking spaces closest to the stadium. Tailgating spots will be $10 each and will be sold on a first-come, first-served basis.
Anyone who wants to tailgate must also have a game day ticket.
Because the tailgating is taking place on high school property, no consumption of alcoholic beverages will be permitted. Anyone over the age of 21 with a valid ID can socialize in a special tailgating area adjacent to the stadium that will be run by CJ’s Sports Bar & Grill at Mel’s Lone Star Lanes. This tailgating area will open two hours prior to games, and both beer and food will be served. CJ’s also will be serving food in the stadium tailgating area.
Players and fans aren’t the only ones who are eager for Sept. 7 to arrive.
“After a year off, I’m ready to coach,” said Austin, who was recruited to Southwestern after being a successful coach at Hanover College in Indiana.
- Player interviews by Maritza Robles