A bright purple bus waving a TCU and Texas flag welcomed fans to the corner of campus on game day.
Stephen Drake, the bus owner and a TCU alumnus, said he was ready to demonstrate his school spirit through the pre-game ritual of tailgating.
“We went from 0 to 100 percent at least this year,” Drake said. “So there’s a lot of learning, there’s a steep learning curve.”
As the football team continued to find their footing in the Big 12 Conference, students, alumni and fans evaluated their roles as supporters.
“The Big 12, it’s a different stage, and that requires a different audience perspective,” said John Scott, a freshman environmental science major.
A designated student tailgate and a player walk-through in Frog Alley has changed up the student tailgate scene. Students were able to interact with the players as well as classmates through these new programs.
“It’s getting better now that we’re in the Big 12. There’s a lot more school spirit now that we’re playing teams we can actually recognize,” said Haley Parizeck, a sophomore nursing major.
With schools such as the University of Texas and the University of Oklahoma in the conference, some fans said TCU was catching up with the hype of the Big 12. Others were looking around at other schools and shaking their heads.
Kellie Perez, a sophomore nursing major, said the student tailgating turnout was nothing compared to the fan bases in places like Norman, Okla., and Austin.
When Virginia came to Fort Worth for the first time on Sept. 22, visiting fans scoped out the university's tailgating scene. Taylor Kingman, a 2005 Virginia graduate, said he thought TCU was doing a fine job of representing their "purple pride." Bringing his own school’s tradition of tailgating on a lawn, his group added an AstroTurf patch to the parking lot.
However, Brian Busch, a senior strategic communications major, said the university’s lack of tradition caused the rift in comparison.
Sophomore Katlyn Bauer said although fan presence was not up to par yet, it was improving.
But although current students may be less than impressed, alumnus Mark Mourer said tailgating has consistently grown for the past ten years on campus.
Mourer has been going to games since he was a ball boy for the team in the 90s and continued after graduating in 1995. He said in his five years working for the TCU Frog Club, a new tailgating row was added each year.
“I think we’re as big as anyone else as far as what fans bring to the parking lot,” Mourer said.
Alumnus Dillion Vestal echoed Mourer's tone and said he saw tailgating as a big part of the university and thought it would improve with the inspiration of bigger schools.
Mourer said location and landscape play a significant role in the game day atmosphere. Unlike the residential area of OU and urban scene at UT, TCU’s focus on surrounding the stadium with organized places made it unique and convenient, he said.
The planned placement of the student section and reserved spots was not appealing to some students. Whitney Ground, a sophomore speech pathology major, said she felt confined in the fenced off student area and enjoyed the open spaces she experienced while visiting a friend on Baylor’s campus.