Few people, much excitement at Wash. U. sports’ first tailgate
What would have otherwise been a quiet Saturday on Francis Field became what Student Union hopes will turn into a school tradition of burgers, music and possibly beer.
Through the efforts of the Student Union (SU) executive board, SU Senator Mike Post and the Washington University Athletic Department, fans of the football team held a tailgate—where students barbecue, play music and prepare to root for their team—before the home opener to encourage school spirit.
The game, which was originally to be played at Greenville College, was rescheduled on short notice, prompting SU President Brittany Perez to plan the event in less than one week. Nonetheless, she claimed that 20 fans turned out before the game.
“We met to talk about how can we create a tailgating culture that maybe students could catch onto and make a tradition,” Perez said. Perez met with the Athletic Department earlier in the week to generate interest in tailgating at the University.
“A big thing about Wash. U. is that people wish there was more school spirit, and a great way to start that is through athletics,” Post said. “We need to make it an experience.”
The tailgate tradition has persisted perhaps since the birth of college football. For decades, legions of fans—mostly at major Division I universities—have shown up before games. Many fans of college football are even bigger fans of the pre-game tailgate.
“The thing I was pleasantly surprised about was how excited everyone was,” said Post, who hopes this weekend’s success will bring more people out to games for the rest of the season.
While the tailgate scene has so far eluded the University, Brittany Perez hopes this weekend’s event began a new tradition that will unify the student body and ignite school spirit.
“We said if we want to do something, we got to start with the first game. We can’t let it pass,” Perez said; she expects a bigger turnout next weekend, when the Bears face off against Westminster College at Francis Field, and SU has an entire week to inform students.
The University Pep Band is also expected to perform next week.
Perez hopes that SU’s efforts will prompt students to take the initiative and start their own tailgates, but in the interim, SU will continue to provide a grill, chips, dip and some beverages to entice students.
“We’re going to continue to promote on a smaller scale,” Perez said. “I think we want to use the resources we have in SU to get the tradition started.”
While the University is not the size of many schools renowned for their tailgating traditions, Perez thinks the student body is ready to tailgate.
“We don’t want to force it upon any student,” Perez said of the push to tailgate. “We want it to be something that students want to do.”
Perez hopes that the tailgating tradition will extend beyond football and will continue for all University athletic events throughout the year.
Junior Michael Young, who went to the inaugural tailgate, said he was only one of four students at the event but hopes to see a rise in attendance.
“I’ll definitely come back next week,” Young said. “It would be cool to have a tradition so everyone’s not in the library all the time.”
He added that the low attendance may be due less to the unpopularity of campus athletics and more due to the time of the game. Next week’s game will take place at night.
“I woke up at 12 [noon] and everyone was still sleeping,” Young said of his housemates.
With additional reporting by Ben Sales.