The issue of what to do about tailgating before football games at UGA reared its head again this week.
The Athens Banner-Herald reported that while students want the school to ease up on restrictions imposed last season on tailgating on the historic North Campus, the administration instead may crack down on tailgaters in other parts of campus.
The Student Government Association has asked the university to drop the prohibition of tents and tables longer than 4 feet and the rule of no tailgating on campus until four hours before kickoff. The ban on kegs, televisions, grills or other cookers, generators and household furniture such as couches on North Campus would remain in place under the student proposal.
The restrictions were put in place after UGA was embarrassed by the continued trashing of North Campus and the damage left behind by fans during the 2009 season, which had a lot of night games that extended the tailgating period.
This past season all the home games except the last one had early starts, so there weren’t as many folks looking to tailgate anyway. In the wake of the restrictions, the new ground zero for tailgaters moved to the Meyers quad off Lumpkin Street on South Campus. I cut through there before several games and the area was pretty packed, looking like the North Campus of old with all the tents set up.
And that’s where the possibility of expanded restrictions comes in.
Speaking of the Meyers quad, George Stafford, the university vice president in charge of game day activities, told the Banner-Herald, “We were unhappy with what went on over there, particularly at the last game.” During the daylong tailgating before the Dogs’ only night home game Nov. 27 against Georgia Tech, he said, someone pulled a couch from a nearby residence hall and set it on fire.
And other idiots drove beer bottles into the ground, then broke them, exposing jagged glass. Guess they got tired of playing beer pong.
So what should UGA administrators do about controlling tailgating?
Last season’s restrictions pretty much killed it on North Campus, as about all that was left as an option was a picnic basket and blanket on the ground. That suited UGA officials, who worried the historic green space was being ruined by the game day crush. As I’ve said before, probably the only way full-scale tailgating ever will return to North Campus is on a paid basis.
If the same restrictions on tailgating are applied to the Meyers quad, the result likely will be the same … the tailgaters will move elsewhere on campus. And then what? As the Dawgs Online blog put it this week, the university “can’t keep playing whack-a-mole every year to react to where the mess pops up next.”
Campuswide restrictions like those on North Campus aren’t a realistic option. Tailgating can’t be driven off campus because it has nowhere to go, so UGA needs to deal with it in a way that allows responsible fans to socialize before a game without letting the idiot fringe act like the trash they leave behind.
At the same time, it doesn’t do any good to appeal to tailgaters to act more responsibly, because alcohol and tailgating are inextricably linked, and the ones causing the problems are so drunk they barely know what they’re doing anyway.
It would seem like a reasonable solution would be to have a visible presence of UGA police in the vicinity of tailgating hot spots like Meyers quad and have them patrol regularly and deal with those tailgaters who get out of hand, leaving the others to enjoy themselves as long as they do so responsibly.
Tailgating is a part of the college football experience. Trying to stamp it out ultimately might hurt attendance at games.
What do you think the solution is?
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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg