Stanford Student Tailgates offer gameday atmosphere to student population

Oct. 8, 2014, 12:00 p.m.

Ever since former head coach Jim Harbaugh swooped in and transformed the nature of Stanford football, gameday attention and student investment in the team have increased. The need arose for a more centralized way for students to contribute to the team’s hype and to experience what it’s like to go to a university that has had a consistently top-25 ranked team.

For this reason, Stanford Athletics, the Associated Students of Stanford University (ASSU), the Inter-Fraternity Council (IFC), the senior class presidents and the Stanford Concert Network (SCN) will continue to sponsor the Stanford Student Tailgates for the remaining three home games.

“We have a top football program and we should tailgate like one,” said IFC President and ASSU Campus Engagement Chair/Chief Fun Officer Everett Watson ’15.

Since Stanford Stadium was reopened in 2006 after remodels, students have unofficially tailgated at Gate 13, where fraternities were known to dominate the scene. Tailgates at Gate 13, however, posed a couple of problems.

(RAHIM ULLAH/The Stanford Daily)
(RAHIM ULLAH/The Stanford Daily)

Though all students were welcome to join, many did not know about the tailgate or felt they could not participate. Additionally, students could not enter the gate from Gate 13 and the surrounding area also served as a parking lot and host to families and other community members.

Last year, the senior class presidents and IFC presidents — recognizing the need for a more centralized student tailgate that all students could participate in — started the Stanford Student Tailgates at Maloney Field.

“If you look at the current climate regarding fraternities, I think it’s a really cool thing that with everything going on, that the [IFC] communities can still come together in this way and still make the group effort to put on these tailgates that aren’t just for them but are for the entire student body,” Watson said. “There are so few times at Stanford where everyone comes together and we realize that when people do, it always makes a huge impact on the students here. We like to create those opportunities as much as we can.”

Expanding access to tailgate space

The Stanford Student Tailgates are organized so that any student group, house, dorm, graduate student community or department can rent a space on Maloney Field from Stanford Athletics and in return receive a tent, table and communal grill. The sponsors of the event provide the music, atmosphere and equipment for any group to host their own tailgate in the same space — all they have to do is provide the people.

Stanford Athletics marketing liaison Kevin Aha, who has been collaborating with the student organizations that orchestrate the tailgates, explained that, “the fraternities agreed to try this — to move out of Gate 13 and move to Maloney Field…Their goal was inclusion.”

“[The initiators of the tailgate last year] wanted a way to take the energy from the IFC tailgates that were going on for fraternities and bring it to a larger audience as well,” said senior class president Connor Kelley ’15. “And I think that’s how different student groups got involved pretty quickly.”

While orchestrating the logistics of the event, Stanford Athletics leaves all of the planning and promotion of the tailgate to the students.

“Basically we’re here to help as a resource to the students who want to make it happen,” said Emily McLaughlin, the marketing and student outreach coordinator for Stanford Athletics. “It’s great to see the enthusiasm of Connor and Everett and some of the other groups on campus because I think that tailgating with fellow students is a great community builder and so we’re mostly just providing a space to do that. The big thing is that it’s more fun with more people and it’s all about community and I think that Connor and Everett are trying to expand it and make it even bigger.”

Watson and Kelley, along with co-campus engagement chair Molefi Cooper, are reaching out to other organizations on campus so that it is not just fraternities dominating the tailgate scene as in the past. Row houses and dorms are being encouraged to rent a space for the remaining three home games — which comes out to costing less than a dollar per person per game according to Watson.

“We just really want to activate as many communities as we can on campus and put them in one place. We work with OAPE [Office of Alcohol Policy and Education] and with Athletics, and we’re going to start working with Cardinal Nights to see how we can build these to be completely inclusive,” Watson said. “We want it to be an area that everyone goes before a football game.”

According to Aha, the feedback that Athletics has received regarding the tailgates has been nothing but positive and they hope to continue the tailgates as a means of instituting traditions “that make it a fun Saturday outside of just the actual football game.”

“I think that students have been very responsible so far. OAPE, SAL [Student Activities and Leadership] have made clear that this is just like any other campus event and so as a group if you buy in for the space, you are responsible for the students coming to your event and the students have been great,” Aha said. “Just seeing people enforce their own set of rules and police themselves is great to see and I hope that it keeps on growing.”

Encouraging students to engage with sports

Along with creating a greater sense of community on the Farm, one of the goals of the tailgates is to break down the stereotype of the apathetic Stanford sports fan.

“We want to make the gameday bigger than just the game,” Aha said. “We want to make it an experience that is social rather than athletic in nature. So hopefully this tailgate can be a very small piece of that.”

There are so many activities for students to engage in on the Stanford campus that oftentimes attending sporting events is not a top priority. Stanford fans are often painted as fair-weather and apathetic, and as not caring about the excitement that is college football. However, the turnout at Stanford’s first and only ESPN College GameDay in 2011 suggested otherwise.

Leading up to the No. 3 Stanford-No. 6 Oregon matchup, nearly half of the student body dragged themselves to the Oval at 4:30 a.m. to take part in the GameDay festivities scheduled to start at 6 a.m. The turnout showed that Stanford fans are passionate about the football gameday experience, despite the national reputation.

Since 2011, however, College GameDay has not reappeared on the Farm, despite featuring multiple Stanford road games at USC and Oregon, perhaps demonstrating that Stanford football is considered a marquee team, but that Stanford isn’t necessarily considered a marquee location for the show.

“As Everett said earlier we’re a top football team so we should tailgate like one too and that’s definitely something that [College GameDay] looks for when they go to schools,” Kelley said. “They don’t want to go to a game that’s going to be a blowout, they want to go to a game between rivals or between two really good teams. They also look for a lot of student engagement as well. If we show to the rest of the school that people like football and like being involved and hanging out with their friends on a nice Saturday, it could definitely raise the chances [of bringing College GameDay back].”

Although Stanford may have the smallest student body of any Pac-12 school, thus perpetuating the stereotype of athletic apathy on the Farm, the combined efforts of Stanford Athletics, the ASSU, the IFC, senior class presidents and SCN aim to turn that around with these student tailgates.

Watson and Kelley expressed that their goal with the tailgates is to create an experience that all of the student body can be a part of and to break down any barriers of exclusivity that might have existed previously, while making the student tailgates an integral part of gameday.

Maloney Field, located next to the Cagan soccer stadium, will be open to students up to five hours before kickoff to tailgate before Stanford’s 6 p.m. game against Washington State. After the game, a firework show, sponsored by Stanford Athletics, will be shot off from Sunken Diamond.

“If you’ve ever been to tailgates at other schools, people are out there for hours throughout the day; it’s about people having a great time and being outdoors rain or shine,” Watson explained. “It’s a great community and a lot of pride and that kind of tradition and legacy is something that Stanford is in the midst of building with regards to our football program and that’s something that we are happy to be a part of.”

Contact Ashley Westhem at awesthem ‘at’

Ashley Westhem was Editor in Chief of Vol. 248 after serving as Executive Editor and Managing Editor of Sports. She is the voice of Stanford women’s basketball for KZSU as well as The Daily’s beat writer for the team and aids in KZSU’s coverage of football. She graduated in 2016 and is currently a Communications masters student. Ashley is from Lake Tahoe, California.

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