ADs Need To Embrace The Game-DayExperience
College football athletic directors are scratching their heads on how to get their fans to come to games rather than stay at home and watch on TV.
They are trying all kinds of things but the prime solution is right in front of them: the tailgate parties.
In order for people to get out of their house and spend the time and money to go to a game, the schools have to provide fans with something they can’t get at home. And partying with thousands of fellow fans – and in a manner of sportsmanship even with fans of the visiting team – is something they cannot get at home.
Tailgating has been a part of college football tradition for decades but strangely, athletic directors and schools are trying to cut down on the activity.
At Michigan, you can have a drink on the grass but step a toe onto a piece of concrete – the sidewalk, the street – and you will be ticketed.
The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party Name
Officials no longer want the media to refer to the Georgia-Florida game as The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.
Discussions are taking place on campuses across the country on how to cut down on drinking at the games and tailgate parties.
This ignores the fact that tailgating has been going on without incident for years. And it’s not all students, either. By far the majority of tailgaters are alumni. And many pay a premium to place tents of their alumni clubs on the grounds outside the stadiums.
Tailgating is just not about booze, either. It’s about camaraderie with friends and other fans. Letting out a big “Roll Tide” in your living room with only your wife and dog in the room is hardly the same satisfaction as saying it with a group of people to other tailgaters.
In many ways, athletic directors are like politicians in that they cannot see the forest for the trees. They spend their Saturdays in the luxury boxes and press box and can’t relate to the common fans. They price tickets at $55, $65 and $85 and schedule games against Buffalo, Florida Atlantic and Georgia State.
To draw in fans, the ADs are throwing up some Hail Marys. At Auburn, you can have dinner on the 50-yard line on Friday nights of home games. Access, of course, is limited to big-dollar donors who pay an additional handsome fee, hardly something the average fan can afford.
At Tennessee, Athletic Director Dave Hart – who is from hated rival Alabama, it’s interesting to note – is one of the ADs who is writing million-dollar checks to make sure fans have WiFi and other modern necessities in order to boost sagging attendance. He’s got 100,000 seats to fill on fall Saturdays and his team won one SEC game last year.
But Hart should take it to heart that what UT fans enjoy the most at Neyland Stadium (besides beating Bama) is pouring Jack Daniels into their Cokes. If visitors show up without any JD, the friendly Tennessee folks will gladly share some with them. This is as much of a tradition at UT games as “Rocky Top” and the splitting of the ‘T.’
And that’s another point – officials are stepping up security to try and stop people from sneaking booze into the games. By NCAA rule you can’t have alcohol in stadiums on campus but being a little less intense about it would certainly improve the fan experience.
After all, who wants to put up with the hassle when the fridge – or a sports bar – is within much closer proximity?
PubClub.com is not saying that smart measures should not be in place. Having security roving around to identify any over-indulgers and to stop any troublemakers should be an essential part of game-day procedures. But to penalize the hundreds of thousands of responsible fans for the potential actions of a few is something that needs to go to the replay booth.
Especially since it’s a key element to enjoying the full game-day experience, something fans have being doing without incident for years.
There are other elements fans can experience at games that they can’t get at home: the roar of the crowd in the stadium, the cheerleaders, the band taking the field to start the game, for example.
But the real difference is the tailgating. So instead of trying to stop the partying, athletic directors and school officials should cheer the tradition.