Alumni Speak Up, Eat Up to Support Players

UT’s potential purchase of a late-night dive restaurant on the edge of its campus has set off an outcry from loyal (and hungry) Longhorn alumni.

Buying sports-supporting burger joint Players would transfer money from public to private hands. And given the appraised value of the land, it could leave the restaurant’s owners with hundreds of thousands of dollars or more.

The purchase would help UT fill out a part of campus important for the advancement of academic programs, president Bill Powers said.

But it would also remove an institution demonstrably beloved by countless alumni.

Owners Carlos Oliveira, BS ’83, and Eddie Hempe, BBA ’90, Life Member, didn’t respond to a request for comment, but their fans are speaking up for them. And plenty of people, not to mention news outlets, are seeing this as a David vs. Goliath story.

Players has been rallied for before. In 2004, when UT looked at acquiring the land through eminent domain, the Save Players group cropped up, gathering thousands of signatures both at the restaurant’s counter and online. Players stayed open.

Now the group—co-founded by UT alums Michael Raia, BS ’06, and Brandon Kraft, BA ’10—has revived itself. The college buddies have dusted off their petition-gathering website and given it a new tagline: “We’ve done it before. Time to do it again.” They’re tweeting, too, calling supporters to man their battle stations.

“I don’t know if I’d call myself a burger activist, but I do love a good cheeseburger, and it’s nice when you can have one late at night,” Raia says. “We’re trying to show support so the owners realize how many people are behind them and do all they can not to be taken advantage of.”

Meanwhile, many alumni came to pay tribute to Players on Thursday the best way they knew how: by eating. The dining room was jammed with a visibly over-college crowd, from men in suits to slackers in sweatshirts.

Anthony Mills, ’92, was one of the many who put the line nearly out the door at lunchtime. Spurred by the news coverage and the thought that his time for flame-broiled Players burgers might be limited, he came for his usual “quarter-combo.”

“A lot of memories with this place,” he said, ticking off the games he’d watched and Sunday dinners he’d eaten there in his college days and beyond. “Please save it. Find somewhere else to build.”

Photo: Players food offerings via the Players website.

 

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