In high school it was known as “Friday Night Lights,” but in college it is now known as “Game Day.” If you haven’t already guessed, I’m talking about football. Football is one of the most widely watched and widely played sports in America. The first American football game occurred on November 6, 1869 between New Jersey colleges: Rutgers University and Princeton University. However, one of the main reasons football is such a beloved sport is because it is so much more than the game. Before the game even starts, it has started because of tailgating. Tailgating before NFL or even high school games has become life long traditions for many devoted fans, family and friends. Grilling before games, playing corn hole in the parking lot of the stadium and of course passing around the football. In college; however, tailgating takes on a different meaning.
In college, most football games occur on Saturday afternoons but Game Day is a whole day affair. According to the Bleacher Report, “If college football games were part of a meal, it would be the main course. But it’s the courses that lead up to the entree—and the accompanying beverage pairings,” essentially describing tailgating.
Students go all out with face painting, wearing tons of over-priced but nice college apparel and so much more. Why? To take tons of school spirited pictures at tailgates, of course. Most of what students do for game day revolves first around tailgating and then the game itself. Most college tailgates revolve around alcohol. Several colleges have put in a lot of effort to curb underage drinking at such tailgating functions. For example, with most Big Ten schools they have created on-campus tailgating. These on-campus tailgates are safer than off-campus tailgating because they are contained and controlled. These on-campus tailgates are sponsored and regulated by the IFC, InterFraternity Council. For example, at my own college, University of Maryland-College Park, on-campus tailgating has become the new form of tailgating. So far this football season, there have been two home games and so two on-campus tailgates. To enter students need to show a wristband that is given to them by the IFC or UMD fraternity member. In addition, students need to show their school ID and their ticket for the game. So far the tailgates have been going smoothly; however, off-campus tailgates still exist.
Every college has their own tailgating traditions and some college traditions stand out from the rest. Many assume that most of the well-known tailgates occur at Southern schools (indeed there are many schools that do) but actually there are many Northern colleges and Mid-western colleges that have just as entertaining tailgates. For example, Penn State is notoriously known for their tailgates. On this year’s Bleacher Report’s “Top 25 College Football Tailgating Schools for 2014,” Penn State just made it into the Top 10. For at Penn State, game days are “known as Nittanyville, a tent city that pops up before each game so students can lock up the best seats in Beaver Stadium.” Over the past few years, Penn State football’s image has been compromised but the students pride has never died out. As for a top Mid-western college University of Michigan-Ann Arbor holds spot number seven in the Bleacher Report’s top picks. On game day, all the “streets and open piece of land is covered with people in maize and blue.” Additionally, Michigan’s stadium has been nicknamed “The Big House,” because it can hold as many people living in Ann Arbor on a daily basis.
Therefore, college game day is taken very seriously as it seems that every home football game is almost seen as a biweekly holiday. With all this said, what about the colleges that don’t have football teams? Well their Saturdays in first semester certainly aren’t as “school spirited,” that’s for sure.