Football is a sport unlike any other. Especially at the collegiate level, it is about more than just the game. It is the atmosphere, the socializing and the tailgating.
It’s a Saturday tradition that has held strong for years, and Racer football is no exception.
Paul Bubb, associate athletic director, said tailgating at Murray State is a time-honored event that has stayed strong during his four years at the University.
While tailgating on Family Weekend has slowly grown in numbers, Homecoming and Tent City have proven to be the most popular day for students and the community to set up outside Roy Stewart Stadium to grill and have fun.
With Homecoming this weekend, Tent City allows groups to set up inside the stadium. Bubb said every spot was filled this year, and he expects a good turnout like last year.
It is the event that brings back the most alumni and appears to be one of the most fun traditions for students. It allows them to both have a good time and support their team.
Zachary Garrison, junior from Franklin, Ky., said he has been to almost every home game for the last three years as a member of Phi Kappa Tau.
“Tailgating is a tradition here,” he said. “All our guys know Saturdays are tailgate days.”
Garrison said his fraternity is like other groups on campus and across the country because they like to have a good time and blow off steam from a busy week of classes and work.
He said tailgating for them starts about five hours prior to game time.
“We set up the tent, the grill and some cornhole boards,” he said. “Then, when people walk by, we give them a burger and they stay and talk and we have a good time.”
Tailgating is unique at Murray State because it is the only time alcohol is allowed on campus.
Bubb said allowing alcohol has always been a touchy issue, but the administration felt that if fans can be responsible, they should be allowed to consume alcohol.
“I think that when you’re dealing with a football game, you’re not only dealing with a student crowd, but you’re also dealing with an adult crowd that is different than what’s on campus on Monday through Friday,” he said. “The desire to be lenient and willing to work with that group presents some challenges, because then you have students that are not allowed to drink because they aren’t of age.”
Bubb and another member of the athletic staff are at every game to make sure the different groups follow the guidelines.
In addition, members of the Alcohol Beverage Control sometimes police the tents and parking lot to issue citations if a minor is caught drinking.
Bubb said his biggest fear is people flaunting the fact they can drink and break the rules, leading to the possible ban of alcohol altogether.
“My responsibility is to make sure people are acting in a reasonable and responsible manner,” Bubb said. “ I make sure their individual tailgate parties are not causing problems with other fans and spectators that are here at the game, and that for all practical purposes they are following our guidelines.”
While it may seem strict at first, Garrison said he thinks the staff does a good job with policing the area.
“They let us do our own things,” he said. “We always have people come tell us if we’re doing anything wrong. They keep it in check and I really like it.”
Bubb and Garrison both think tailgating is about something much more than the food and drinks, though.
Having fans come out to the stadium for the game boosts morale and gives a positive atmosphere to game days.
Garrison said tailgating is a crucial part of supporting the athletics program. He said all the students are out there for a common goal.
“We’re all out there for the simple fact we’re supporting the athletic program,” he said. “It’s Murray State pride. It brings the students together, and that’s what I love about tailgating.”
Story by Ryan Richardson, Sports Editor