Tailgating banned during games

Jason Mann

Jason Mann

University officials have banned tailgating during football games, a move that has angered some students and sparked an alternative plan by the student government president.

In the past, fans had been allowed to tailgate throughout football games. This summer officials from administration and the athletics department made changes to the school’s tailgating policy because they say they had safety concerns and because they wanted to boost game attendance.

The new policy states that everyone in the Backyard area, located just north of Coughlin-Alumni Stadium, must leave the area by approximately 30 minutes before kickoff. If tailgaters opt to go to the game, they can leave their belongings in the area and pick them up later.

“Tailgating was not the reason to be there,” said Michael Reger, executive vice president for administration.

Reger said he doesn’t think participants will have too much trouble adjusting to the change. He said that while they enjoy tailgating, most students and alumni are bigger fans of Jackrabbit football.

“I can’t picture them leaving,” said Reger.

Reger cited safety as another spur for the ban. But when questioned by Students’ Association Senator Ben Wise at an SA meeting Sept. 3, Reger didn’t say that any specific concerns sparked the change. He did say past incidents were part of the reasoning and there were a few events that were “on the edge.”

Portable lighting will also be installed on the north end of the Backyard. Reger says the extra lighting will help with safety concerns and aid the University Police Department in enforcing the policy.

Jason Stripling, a senior civil engineering major, said he’s upset about the change and questioned the need for more attendance as a justification for the change.

“I don’t know how they’re going to fit that many more people into the stands,” he said.

He also wants to know how the policy is going to be enforced.

SA President Alex Brown represented students at the summer meetings where the policy change was made. On Sept. 7, Brown proposed an alternative to the university plan to Reger as a type of compromise between potentially angry fans and administration. It’s a plan he said he hadn’t even considered until the new policy was put in place.

With Brown’s plan, beer would be sold from one concession booth in the stadium, starting from the time the tailgating area closed until the beginning of the second quarter, allowing fans a transition from tailgating to the game, but giving patrons most of the game to process what they consume. All proceeds from beer sales would go to the athletic department, giving them a new source of revenue to help pay for the added cost of moving to D-I.

“It’s another option,” said Brown. “I wanted to make sure they (administration) looked at every possibility.”

While SDSU is a dry campus, alcohol consumption by fans 21 years old and older is allowed in the Backyard. According to Reger, institutional presidents have the authority to allow alcohol to be served on certain areas of university property. The Backyard has been designated one of these areas.

Brown said that by allowing alcohol into the tailgating area, a precedent has been set, and selling beer is the next logical step. Brown said he plans to do more research into how other D-I universities and peer institutions manage their tailgating areas and alcohol sales in their stadiums.

Reger said the school began looking at restructuring the tailgating policy during the summer, after members of the athletic department returned to Brookings from conferences. Reger says research was done on two other D-I schools’ policies, Western Illinois University and the University of Notre Dame, as well as a few peer institutions, but Reger couldn’t remember exactly which ones were part of the comparison study.

“It was fairly clear everyone wants to focus on the game,” said Reger.

Brown said he realizes that some students feel blindsided by the changes and are upset, but he said if students want the policy to change, they need to be respectful of it first. He would like any students that would like to comment or complain about the policy to call the SA office at 688-5181.

To date, there has been no university reaction to Brown’s plan.

The first game these changes will affect is the first home game, the Cereal Bowl, on Sept. 15 against the University of Northern Iowa.