It may still be Thanksgiving break at UNT, but the campus was full of people today for a momentous occasion: The final football game ever to be played at Fouts Field.
It was also the site of a ginormous alumni reunion for the UNT marching band, the Green Brigade, of which I was a member for four years during undergrad school, and around 150 alumni showed up to that gathering. Even though we went through a whole season of weather today (from the upper 30s when I woke up to the 60s to--seriously--a sunburn in the stands during the first half of the game), it was a day I won't soon forget.
Was it weird to march again? You bet! Considering that I hadn't been in a marching band of any kind since late in grad school (and even that was a fake band, assembled for a movie that was shot on campus at the time), or marched for real since my first senior year of undergrad--yeah, it was quite an unusual experience. (And the march into the stadium has been greatly expanded, leading me to tell the guy next to me, "I see why they also get P.E. credit for this class.")
A lot of things have improved with regard to the game-day experience since I was in school: the evolution of tailgating has been a welcome change; the Hospitality Deck--to which a friend of mine always has access for himself and guests--is a great hangout for alumni which I will miss at the new place; and the support of alumni has grown immensely in the intervening years (when I was in school, the students would show up really late--they still do--but they used to outnumber the alumni by a large margin, but now, the only reason the alumni side isn't full is that some of the seat-holders are out on the Deck).
If you've read the various posts I've written in the past few years regarding the new stadium, you might be surprised at what I'll say next: There's a part of me that will really miss Fouts Field. Sure, in my enthusiasm for the new stadium, I've often described Fouts in less-than-glowing terms (the words "white elephant" and "eyesore" are frequent choices, and there's no denying that every 4A and 5A high school in Texas plays in a nicer venue), but I'd be lying if I said I didn't feel a pretty big twinge of sadness when the UNT alma mater, "Glory to the Green," was played within its walls for the last time tonight. It may well be a white elephant, but it's our white elephant, and a lot of memories were made inside a place that I've visited at least once a year since I was 18. The new place will be fun and classy and shiny, but it will take some getting used to, that's for sure.
Now, as for the game itself? Well, we lost. But not by a lot, especially considering the opponent was a Big 12 team with a winning record. Still, I was very impressed with the work of interim head coach Mike Canales, who would seem to have been a favorite to take over the permanent job after two more victories and a very impressive job against 7-5 Kansas State. The team played with more energy than I'd seen all season, and they have definitely bought into what he's doing. Yet it appears that it was decided a few days ago to the job has been offered to someone else (but I'll save that topic for tomorrow).
So long, Fouts; I've spent a lot of time within your walls. Next year's experience will be different (and quite possibly more expensive), and it will be a great thing for the program long-term. But the memories created for UNT fans for the past 59 seasons will not soon be forgotten.