Tailgating now a reality at Bears’ games

| Staff Reporter

What began as a Facebook interest group has now evolved into a full-fledged attempt to increase school spirit in the form of tailgating.

This past Saturday marked the first pregame tailgate of the Bears’ football season. Around 200 students congregated outside of the Danforth University Center, where they could buy traditional tailgating cuisine and compete for a few prizes before the football game against Wittenberg University.

Sophomore Jacqui Germain created the Facebook group “Football Games at WashU?!” in April 2009, after being disappointed with the lack of attendance and school spirit at football games and other sporting events. The group now contains almost 500 members.

“I started the group at the end of last year. I’ve been telling people to come to the games and trying to get people to get dressed up in school colors and paint their faces and just have fun,” Germain said. “I want people to support the team regardless of whether we are undefeated or whether they were struggling. It would be nice for the team to have the support.”

Germain points to her experiences growing up in Ohio and going to a high school with high team spirit.

“Everyone watched the Friday night football games at my high school,” she said. “When I came here, I knew it wasn’t going to be as much of a focus in the student body. But when I went to the first game, it was kind of sad to see that there weren’t really any students in the stands and that no one was wearing any school colors.”

Germain said she knew the football team would appreciate more fans and support. To remedy the low fan base at games, Germain decided to take on the initiative of assembling students who have an interest in attending the games.

The University administration and Student Union soon got behind the idea. Supporters used the parking lot outside the DUC and Francis Field to tailgate.

Various campus entities, including SU, Greek Life and the DUC, came together to organize the tailgate event. Leslie Heusted, director of the DUC, said she thinks tailgating before games at the DUC is a logical step toward raising school spirit and attendance at sporting events.

“I think the first thought process from my point of view is that we are adjacent to the field, so it makes sense that we would do something to help people gather before they go to the game,” Heusted said. “There’s a lot of interest in supporting school spirit and supporting the athletic teams from a lot of different student groups on campus, and it’s just a matter of finding space for that to happen.”

The first tailgate was successful in increasing school spirit at the game and for the football team, Heusted said.

“There was really good energy around the tailgating, and I think that can only help school spirit,” she said. “I think that any opportunity for people to come together and get excited together is a good opportunity to have. It’s a momentum that I hope we can build as we do this before each Saturday home game.”

Members of the football team were also appreciative of the efforts. Senior co-captain Andrew Berryman expects the tailgating to draw a new crowd to the games in addition to the current fans of the team.

“Tailgating gives students who may not know as much about football a reason to come out and see the game,” Berryman said. “It makes it seem like students are more excited about the team.”

For Berryman, the football team would benefit greatly from activities like tailgating that would promote the games.

“I feel that the student population isn’t well informed about games, so the advertising definitely helped,” he said. “It’s nice to have a lot of people thinking about the team.”

Germain said she has been making efforts to inform more students about when the games take place. She hopes attendance at the games will remain high throughout the year.

“The stands were full, which was pretty cool,” she said. “I don’t know if the stands will stay full, but more people now know the times of the games and when they’re going on.”

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