COVID-19 forces Texas A&M to keep fans out of Midnight Yell

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Texas A&M University Head Yell Leader Keller Cox performs a yell as part of the first Midnight Yell Practice this season in Kyle Field, College Station, Texas early Saturday, Sept. 26, 2020. Due to Coronavirus restrictions, the Texas A&M Band were the only crowd allowed in the normally packed stands for the traditional game day event in College Station, Texas. (Sam Craft/Pool Photo via AP, Pool)

COLLEGE STATION, Texas – Texas A&M’s five Yell Leaders ran into an almost empty Kyle Field as Friday night crept into Saturday morning for their Midnight Yell.

It’s a tradition almost 90 years old, normally held in front of more than 25,000 people before every football game. No fans were allowed this year because of the coronavirus, leaving the Yell Leaders to perform only to the school’s band, their voices echoing in the cavernous space.

“It was a little eerie, but I think it went well,” head Yell Leader Keller Cox said through his mask moments after it ended.

Texas A&M doesn’t have cheerleaders, but instead a group of five male Yell Leaders. The esteemed unit of three seniors and two juniors are elected by the student body and are ambassadors for the university.

They started the lighthearted event in 1931. It includes fables mocking the opposing team, choreographed yells and a few songs from the band. The pep-rally style event routinely draws between 25,000-30,000 people, but has occasionally had crowds of 40,000 or more.

In the first one without fans on Saturday morning, the Yell Leaders performed not only for the band, but for cameras which were livestreaming it online. Cox asked those watching from home to take videos of their groups and post them to social media.

“Tradition is something that’s huge here at Texas A&M... (it’s) something that we pride ourselves in and that makes us unique compared to other schools,” Cox said. “Something I say as a Yell Leader to our students is... you can get a degree anywhere but you can’t get the spirit of Aggieland."

As No. 10 Texas A&M prepared to open its season against Vanderbilt on Saturday night, the Yell Leaders made fun of the Commodores for winning just one SEC game last season, earning delighted sounds of “whoop” from the more than 300-person band.