What’s one of the first things you see when you arrive on a campus in the SEC during Saturdays in the fall? Tailgating. A lot of tailgating. And you better believe it contributes to the general perception that the teams in the Southeastern Conference have the best football fans in America. The game experience starts and finishes in the parking lots just outside the stadium. You want to create a name for your school, your town, your team? Get your fans to tailgate. You want to bring in new fans? Get your fans to tailgate. You want to fill your stadium? Get your fans to tailgate. Make it a party and people will come in bunches, win or lose.
ESPN routinely covers the best tailgating experiences year after year. One such experience comes from the annual Florida vs. Georgia football game held in Jacksonville, Florida, in which, it can be argued, the tailgating is more well-known than the game itself. Since the 1950s, the tailgating experience prior to the game has been called “The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.” Media love to report from and engage with hometown tailgates like these at every school they visit, which makes it an even more important piece of your game-day experience. The better the tailgating experience and the more rabid your fans seem, the stronger your program feels. The Mississippi State Bulldog baseball program has taken this approach to the next level still by integrating tailgating into the actual in-game experience. Dubbed the “Left Field Lounge,” the best seats in the house are located in the outfield and aren’t seats in the traditional sense at all. Instead of bleachers you’ll find pickup trucks, RVs, motor homes and trailers, many equipped with barbeques and all the finest tailgating amenities.
“What began in the 1960s as a popular gathering spot for baseball loving MSU students now forms college baseball’s largest tailgating party,” says Hailstate.com, Mississippi State’s sports site. The game-day experience became so popular that Sports Illustrated named it the best place to watch a college baseball game. Like everything else, tailgating needs your support to be effective. Don’t discourage your fans—encourage them!