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Texas A&M decides not to bring back bonfire tradition

After months of discussion, Texas A&M president Mark Welsh said the student bonfire tradition "should remain in our treasured past."
Posted at 4:38 PM, Jun 12, 2024

COLLEGE STATION, Texas (KRHD) — After months of discussion, Texas A&M president Mark Welsh said the student bonfire tradition "should remain in our treasured past."

  • In 1999, a long-time A&M tradition celebrating the football rivalry with UT-Austin turned deadly, when the 60-foot bonfire collapsed, killing 12 students and injuring 27 more.
  • In the fall of 2023, with TAMU and UT once again playing in the same conference and likely to face off in the next football season, Texas A&M President Mark Welsh appointed a special committee to explore options to commemorate the rivalry, including the possibility of bringing back the student bonfire.
  • A big goal of the committee was to consult with the families of the victims about bringing back the bonfire.
  • Welsh decided not to bring back the bonfire tradition. The committee suggested a golf tournament and a "rivalry run" carrying the game ball from Austin to College Station to commemorate the long-standing rivalry.

BROADCAST TRANSCRIPT:

After months of discussion, Texas A&M leaders have decided not to bring back the infamous bonfire tradition, which was discontinued after a deadly collapse killed 12 students in 1999.

A final decision from Texas A&M president Mark Welsh puts out any hope of a possible school-sanctioned bonfire.

In a statement, Welsh said, “I decided that bonfire, both a wonderful and tragic part of Aggie history, should remain in our treasured past.”

Reactions from the community are mixed. Some view it as a great tradition.

“I think the precautions need to make... something done to make sure something like that doesn’t happen again but it’s such a great tradition and you know, just brings Aggies together,” one man said.

“I think it was a fun tradition, very impressive. But I don’t know how the families of the deceased would feel about it,” another man said.

I spoke with some family members of one of the victims. They didn’t want to speak on camera but they got extremely emotional as we were talking about it.

They said the death of their loved one absolutely devastated their family. Even today, walking through the parents’ home you can feel the pain and sadness. They say it would be extremely painful to see that tradition brought back to life.

The wishes of the victims’ families is one of the reasons for the decision.

In the same letter, Welsh said, “Majority of those who reached out were not in favor of reinstituting Bonfire.”

Another big reason is the logistics.

The student bonfire was a way for students to show leadership, camaraderie, and work together toward a common goal. Now, due to settlements with victims’ families, the only legal option would be to have a bonfire designed by engineers and built by contractors.

Welsh said, "If students weren’t organizing, leading and building the bonfire, then they didn’t think we should bring it back.”

To commemorate the rivalry, the committee recommended a golf tournament and a "Rivalry Run" carrying the game ball from Austin to College Station. We'll keep you updated as more details come out.