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Music, fun, games, food and traditions: Lion tailgating 2017

Sarah Hess

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Student Austin Rogers and graduate student Tyron’E Hawkins  enjoyed themselves during tailgating. Tailgating has become a staple at the university’s football games. Sarah Hess/The Lion’s Roar

Delta Sigma Theta Inc. member Kanyla Huston performs with her sorority sisters in their line. Sarah Hess/The Lion's Roar

When the university’s football program was reestablished in 2003, faculty and staff drew inspiration from other universities’ playbooks to elevate the entertainment value of football with the launch of tailgating. 

The university’s tailgating offers a fun time for all ages with a kid zone and tailgating spots available for many organizations such as Greek life, Baptist Collegiate Ministry, Alumni Association, College of Business Ambassadors, the University Heath Center and many other organizations that participate in the pregame fun throughout the football season. Tailgating has been going on for about a decade. 

Kathy Pittman, who retired this year from her position of 21 years as the executive director of the Alumni Association, explained how tailgating on campus began.

“I was on the committee to help with the marketing when we brought football back,” said Pittman. “One of the things we did is set up a committee that had some of the people in the community on it, alumni, students and a few faculty members. They had different things that they did, and one of them was to find how to bring tailgating to Southeastern.”

To brainstorm ideas for the university’s tailgates, their committee went to view tailgating at other colleges. 

“We went to several schools and saw how they were doing their tailgating, and we came back and decided that we want a fun environment that gave everybody an opportunity to have a good time,” said Pittman. “But we also wanted it to be family-friendly, and that’s why we decided to use the circle, and we closed off the circle so that people could come and cross and just have a good time, and then everybody was allowed to pick a tailgate spot.”

Assistant Athletic Director for Marketing and Development Tom Dawsey supports the idea that keeping the university’s tailgates in Friendship Circle allows for a family-friendly environment unique to the campus. 

“Most universities that I have visited have their tailgate areas spread out throughout campus,” said Dawsey. “Southeastern is different because we all come together in Friendship Circle for a fun, family-oriented experience.” 

During the 17-year period when the university had no football team, other universities such as Louisiana State University began tailgating as a means of convenience for game-goers. 

“Seeing tailgating at other schools like LSU, they started tailgating because you couldn’t go out and eat then come to the game because you would get stuck in traffic, and you’d miss the game or be late,” said Pittman. “So that’s how people started tailgating. They would drive up, just find their parking spots and say, ‘OK, here is where we’re going to be. We can snack now and have a picnic before we go into the game.’’’ 

Tailgating before games became a way to boost fans’ and athletes’ morale.

“We had looked at other schools and that was where all the camaraderie was,” said Pittman. “Everybody got together and had a great time, and they were used to doing this on other campuses. And so, we felt like it was definitely appropriate for us to want to bring in all of our alumni, the community and friends to have a good time at Southeastern. This was the way to do it.”

Alumni Athletic Coordinator Larry Hymel notes that tailgating gives fans a chance to interact with the players they are supporting.

“Players really get a chance to interact, shake hands with the fans,” said Hymel. “SLU has tried to improve its family-oriented theme in all sports.” 

Pittman discussed the importance of tailgates for the university visitors on game days.

 “People come out and have a good time, and they get really excited, and they want to support the program, and it gives them an opportunity to do so,” said Pittman. “In the stadium you have select seats. You’re not sitting with everybody that you know that you can converse with. And so, at a tailgate, you can go from place to place, visit, have a lot of fun and then go into the game and support your team.”

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