The importance of the American football tailgate

Each Saturday, college football takes over the country. Games are aired on dozens of networks and students everywhere tailgate from before sunrise until after nightfall. Tailgaters are featured in every college football telecast and are one of the focal points of ESPN’s College Gameday show. Tailgating is such a big deal that it can become the deciding factor for non-athletes when it comes to choosing their school.
Unfortunately, neither football nor tailgating is as prominent at Trinity College as it is around the country. Obviously we are not a Division I program with boosters and millions of dollars in revenue flowing in from football. Not to mention there are less than 2,500 students at Trinity, about two percent of the capacity of the largest college football stadiums. Nonetheless, whether you go to Alabama or Trinity, tailgating and watching football is fun.
So why isn’t there a larger student presence in the crowd at football games? Plain and simple, people don’t care enough to go. All of the home games for the past decade have been at either noon or 1PM: much too early to ask a college student to get up and support their team. Watching football is fun, but students need more than that to come out and support. There’s something that always gets college students up, though: partying, also known as tailgating.
However, Trinity makes tailgating a hassle. Those who want to tailgate prior to football games must reserve one of twenty or so parking spots in the Hansen parking lot well in advance. Furthermore, their tailgate must be over by halftime at the latest. Not only are these restrictions inconvenient in that they take away from the spontaneity of tailgating, but they also make it undesirable as a whole. Students already have enough stresses to worry about to than add the annoyance of applying for a tailgating spot, so parents and alumni take up most of the spots.
If you don’t believe that cutting restrictions and allowing students to party and drink increases attendance and pride in athletics, just look at the hockey team. Several hundred students crowd into the Koeppel Center for every weekend hockey game because they are free to drink and party before and during the games. It’s not even as if all the students drink, but the mere fact that there are no restrictions placed on partying creates an atmosphere that makes students congregate.
Yes, obviously, it’s different because Trinity can’t openly promote drinking on campus, but it’s not as if students don’t drink anyway.
Students are going to drink whether you restrict them or not, and limiting tailgating certainly isn’t going to change that.
A large majority of students will tell you that one of the most enjoyable times on campus is spring weekend, where they are free to drink and enjoy themselves during the day. Is it so much to ask to try and recreate a miniature spring weekend environment four times during the fall? It’s unrealistic to think that restricting tailgating will result in spring weekend type fun, but it certainly would help. There would obviously be concerns about the mess that would be left behind, which is inevitable, but this could easily be solved by offering work-study cleanup jobs.
Campus safety would be around to prevent things from getting out of control, and discipline from Trinity College itself could ensue for any students who ultimately go too far out of line.
There are simple solutions for these and other concerns associated with a tailgating atmosphere. Tailgating should not be restricted at Trinity. Rather than banning tailgates from going into the second half, Trinity College policies should ban openly carrying alcohol. Rather than making students apply for spots, encourage them to come to the games, have promotions, have a food truck, encourage school pride.
In the 2015 season, the average attendance at Trinity football games was 2,942, of which a large portion were parents, alumni, and opposing fans. That number is somewhat skewed, as well, because there were over 5,000 fans at the homecoming game, which always creates an amazing atmosphere to play in.
If we could create that type of atmosphere for every home game, school pride would definitely increase and the campus would be a more fun place. Getting more students involved in football games would transform fall weekends at Trinity. Eliminating tailgating restrictions would encourage more students to come to games, creating an environment that they enjoy, increasing camaraderie and school spirit.
With the impending revitalization of Jessee/Miller Field, the stage is set for an amazing Saturday environment.

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