Old tradition grows as tailgating increases before home contests

Sophomore Kayla Christensen and Senior Josh Dippie enjoy the fall weather as they tailgate with the Wesley Foundation before Saturday’s Homecoming football game. || Maddie Mucci/The News

Sophomore Kayla Christensen and Senior Josh Dippie enjoy the fall weather as they tailgate with the Wesley Foundation before Saturday’s Homecoming football game. || Maddie Mucci/The News

Tailgating has become tradition for many students before home football games.

Student organizations, family and alumni set up tents surrounding the outside of Stewart Stadium to socialize before games. Paul Bubb, associate athletic director for external affairs, said tailgating fits into the already social environment of a football game.

“Tailgating, along with attending the game, is also a way for the University to strengthen bonds with various constituents,” Bubb said. “This includes students, alumni, parents, community members and boosters.”

For family weekend, Bubb said the athletic department predicted more than 3,500 people participated in some form of a pre-game tailgate. Part of this number included the Racer Band and their families set up on the old practice football field.

Many different groups participate in pre-game events. Several IFC fraternities put up tents, as well as organizations such as the Wesley Foundation, Student Housing and Enrollment Management, the Racer Club and several local businesses.

Sigma Chi member Corey Grissom, said tailgating has helped organizations socialize in a simple and cheap environment.

“Tailgating gives the student body, community and alumni base of Racer Nation an opportunity to … show their school spirit,” Grissom said.

Now Racer Club members can reserve space along the wall behind the stadium, or on the opposite side of the parking lot outside of Roy Stewart Stadium. Those who are not members of the Racer Club can reserve RV parking spots by contacting Bubb. Small groups can gather on the east side of the stadium on a first-come-first-serve basis. Non-members can also tailgate behind their vehicles.

Bubb said tailgating has gone extremely well this year and people seem to appreciate the pre-game festivities.

“People enjoying the pre-game atmosphere and looking forward to coming out to Stewart Stadium is an evident testimonial to tailgating having a positive impact on the football program,” Bubb said.

Home football game attendance has increased over the last few years and Bubb believe’s it is due to tailgating activities. Both Bubb and Grissom expect tailgating get bigger with each game.

“I expect tailgating to continue to grow as long as tailgaters continue to conduct themselves responsibly on game day and do not create public image problems for the University and student body,” Grissom said.

Ultimately, Bubb wishes to see students travel to more away games and tailgate there as well.

“Central Arkansas had a strong contingency of fans who traveled to their game at Murray earlier this year and tailgated before the game,” Bubb said. “Having been on their campus two years ago for our game there, I have to believe several of the groups traveling

here came because they had such a strong tailgating program at their home games.”

Bubb and the athletic department are working on building up the program and getting more students involved in pre-game events. The next home football game is 11 a.m. against Tennessee State on Nov. 3.

Lexy Gross, Staff Writer