Where are the tailgaters?
ASSISTANT SPORTS EDITOR
The long days of spring football practice all seem to merge into one, James Kretkowski, said. The sophomore offensive lineman is currently in the midst of another arduous practice schedule, where every day consists of trying to balance the responsibilities of being a scholarship athlete alongside his academic work.
Spring practice marks the beginning of the new football season; Kretkowski and his teammates are gearing up to prove doubtful fans that last year’s 4-7 record was an anomaly. The talent and motivation are there, and Kretkowski said he believes the fans will see a better product on the football field when Delaware State rolls into town Sept. 1.
Despite higher expectations, Kretkowski said he isn’t optimistic about fan support, specifically from the student section. The apathy, he said, derives from a multitude of aspects: tailgating being one of the biggest.
“How do we get students to come to the game? I don’t know,” Kretkowski said. “I agree that tailgating would get more students to come down to the game, but it’s not like they don’t have the option.”
As it currently stands under university policy, tailgating is allowed during game day — students included. If a student wants to grill with charcoal or gas, they can. If they want to invite their friends, they can. Anything under the law that a student can legally do is allowable at a tailgate.
However, there appears to be a lack of understanding of these rules. Junior Rob Grossman, who works closely with the Athletic Department as a member of the student operations team, said this comes from students’ heightened interest for alcohol.
Grossman said that, frankly, students would rather be drinking at an off-campus property. What students do not understand is that all of their weekend activities, minus the alcohol, could be done down by Tubby Raymond Field.
“Students can do whatever they want, as long as it’s not alcoholic,” he said. “It’s hard for the university to get tailgating across because the moment they say the police will be enforcing underage drinking laws, that’s where you lose students.”
Alcohol is not just a Delaware problem. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism estimates that four out of five college students aged 18 to 24 drink, and about half of those students engage in binge drinking. The culture is pervasive, with many students choosing to drink on a weekend rather than attend a university athletic event.
Grossman understands that getting the message about tailgating across is a challenge. However, the power of social media may help students come around to the idea.
“One way to increase public knowledge is to have students who do go to the game to post pictures on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram,” he said. “In this day and age, social media is the way to get the word around.”
Other ways Grossman envisions more students tailgating is through university sponsored events. A pep rally and a tailgate where students can use their points or Flex to pay for game day meals are some of the ideas he suggests.
Through Grossman’s relationship with Interim Athletic Director Matthew Robinson, the two have been working closely together, coming up with ideas to increase fan attendance.
But the two agree that it’s important for the university’s teams to win. Robinson is optimistic that this upcoming fall will showcase not only an improved football team, but overall attendance as well.
“It’s always great to have a good product, and fans love to come out and support a winning team,” Robinson said. “I’d like to think that we are looking forward to a great fall in football.”