It’s time to build a new tailgaiting tradition
October 26, 2017
I didn’t watch the game between Illinois and Minnesota.
Instead, I got to watch Ole Miss take on LSU live.
My cousin goes to Ole Miss, and I have been trying to go down there for years, but the Illinois football schedule always seems to contradict. Throughout my time in college, I have had to sit silently while she bragged about the Ole Miss football program.
But, finally, I decided it was time to see it for myself.
Ole Miss is an established football program. With a record of 3-4 overall, the Rebels are far from a powerhouse, but their fan base is as dedicated as they come. The game against LSU is the biggest game of the year.
Going through game day at Ole Miss made me yearn for the same experience at Illinois. But, after the initial shock of what a college game day can look like wore off, I realized that Illinois shouldn’t strive for the atmosphere of Ole Miss, because Illinois has the opportunity to be better.
The Ole Miss tailgating experience is something everybody should see, but that doesn’t mean it should be the standard. They have an area of campus sectioned off specifically for tailgating called The Grove. On game days, The Grove is packed and looks massive. They literally have street names for each path in order to make it easier to navigate.
The fans are all involved. Everybody was wearing red and blue. I started tailgating at noon for a 6:30 p.m. game, and I was probably one of the last people to arrive.
It did make me jealous. This kind of turnout was something I had never seen before.
Illinois has its own area to tailgate, but it is a long way from being as packed as Ole Miss’s Grove was. It’s not like Ole Miss is a great football team. They only have one more win than Illinois, but at Ole Miss, football is a tradition.
The University shouldn’t strive to match that level. They should be trying to exceed it. While I was there, the only thing I could think about is that it is entirely possible.
Ole Miss football is entrenched in tradition. The Grove is pretty much an even split between alumni and students. This may seem pretty cool, but it actually makes the whole experience pretty tame. With so many adults walking around, I saw that students were not as willing to let loose.
That is something that Illinois students excel at. As cool as Ole Miss tailgating is, Grange Grove can be so much better. The fact that it is predominately students is just the start. When I saw so many alumni and parents walking around the Grove at Ole Miss, I felt uneasy. If Illinois could pack Grange Grove like that, I know for a fact that I wouldn’t have that problem.
With the rebuild that Illinois football is in, we have an opportunity that not many schools have. We can start a brand new tradition, one where the students define the culture.
I have yet to go to a college campus that I can flat out say is better than the University of Illinois. I firmly believe that this is one of the most fun schools in the nation, and the fact that we don’t have a tailgating culture is a crime.
But it is understandable. The only thing Ole Miss has that Illinois doesn’t is recent success. There is a sizeable fan base ready for Illinois football to be good again.When the team starts winning, the tailgating will come.
I always knew that was the case, but it took this trip to Ole Miss to realize exactly how great the experience could be. Before, I wanted to match these schools. Now I know that Illinois can be better than them, and it’s exciting.