Denton resident David Barnes attended the University of the North Texas in the early ’90s, and has been tailgating at football games since the days at Fouts Field. Rain and all, he was out with family and friends at Apogee Stadium Saturday morning for a day of fun — and a game with huge implications.

Barnes said when he started tailgating at UNT’s old stadium, it technically wasn’t allowed — but he’d do it with friends anyway.

“We’d get in one of the back parking lots,” Barnes said. “You had to sneak open the trunk, grill a couple hot dogs. … It was a little embarrassing, honestly.”

It was about the fun then, and for 55-year-old Barnes, that hasn’t changed in the present-day. He has a Facebook group with dozens of friends and family members, many of whom come out to the games on a regular basis. Through COVID struggles over the past two seasons, he said it provides them a chance to get together.

“I can visit with friends and people I don’t see every day,” Barnes said. “Even if the team loses, I still had a good time. It’s fun to hang out with your friends.”

Over a dozen group members were out Saturday for one of the university’s biggest games in recent history — a tilt against undefeated 15th-ranked University of Texas at San Antonio. A win was necessary to keep UNT’s bowl hopes alive, but before he knew the outcome, Barnes already had some optimism over the program despite a roller-coaster stretch.

“Some people didn’t even buy tickets this year, they were so disappointed [with the 2020 season],” Barnes said. “I think [coach Seth Littrell] can win with the players that are here now.”

And win they did, as the UNT fans in attendance got to witness the university’s second ever win against an Associated Press Top 25-ranked opponent. But as Barnes said, the game itself is just one part of the tailgating experience. Family friend Michael Holt, also a UNT alumnus, said the benefit is simple.

“Life is hectic and it’s a good time to reconnect,” Holt said. “Drink beer, play cornhole and just have fun, mainly.”

The football program’s recent rebound is doing its part to help that goal.

Recommended for you

See what people are talking about at The Community Table!