I stereotyped Texas football and tailgating as I was coming to TCU from Indiana, a state where corn and cow tipping is heralded more than football. Excluding Notre Dame, tailgating in Indiana does not exist until college basketball season.
As an out-of-stater, I imagined barbecue by the truckloads, students staking out parking spots to begin tailgating 24 hours before kickoff and Pat Green blasting out of speakers the way Lynyrd Skynyrd is played at the University of Alabama (no joke, you hear "Sweet Home Alabama" 50 times in a weekend).
My first TCU football home game was Sept. 19, 2009 against Texas State. I was confused when I came to TCU and there was nothing for students to do on game days except talk between Sherley Hall and Waits Hall.
I was unaware of this at the time, but there were issues in 2008 with underage drinking. This eventually led to the Texas Alcohol Beverage Commission and the university's decision to remove alcohol from student tailgates.
After that, student tailgating basically went silent.
Three years later, thanks to SGA president Brent Folan and the continuing works of TCU Frog Club director Jeremiah Donati, the 2012 football season marks the revival and restoration of tailgating.
Folan has laid the foundation for the promise he made to students back in 2011 to reestablish tailgating options for students. In less than a year, the SGA budget for student tailgating has increased from nothing to $20,000.
"Based on the first four home games, it's been a huge success," Folan said. "I knew it wouldn't happen overnight and every student wouldn't be there. It can only get bigger."
According to Folan, the original number of 12 student tailgate spots located in Frog Alley has been recently cut to six. $200 purchases a spot, $275 provides a spot and two tables, or the party can pay $350 for a grill with propane along with the tables, Folan said.
The spots are more expensive around campus. Donati, the director of the donor parking program, said approximately 2,500 donors made a gift for football parking this season. Parking spots, Donati said, are available as a tax-deductible gift of $200 up to $2,500 each season.
"The gift is a charitable donation and that donation is required to access the lot," Donati said.
"For example, if you make a gift of $500, you are eligible to park in Lot 14 (the grassy knoll by the Lowden Track and Field Complex)."
I can understand the gift program. I think it is pricey, but I understand charging student organizations and fraternities hundreds of dollars to participate. My one issue with the efforts to restore tailgating is the time restriction.
I can deal with not having any personal sound systems, and even with not being allowed to throw a football around. But the student tailgate cannot start until three hours before the game. I am sensitive to SGA's concerns regarding students' misbehavior in the past at tailgates, but three hours of tailgating is just not enough time.
A Texas Tech couple who came to Fort Worth last weekend seemed shocked that there were time restrictions on tailgating.
"Game day is a full day now," said Tech alumnus Ron Butler. "Sometimes, it takes up a whole weekend."
His wife, Lorilei Butler, said it is common for fans to meet on Mondays to discuss plans for the upcoming weekend's tailgate.
One day, the university's tailgating will rival that of the larger Big 12 Conference universities. It can be as big as the fans want to make it.
For a university with an enrollment of 9,725 students, an alumni population of 82,000 and given recent events, our tailgating is not too shabby. I am just glad tailgating is starting to come around again.