If you have been paying attention to TFM and my byline, it has become clear that I was tasked with writing a bunch of college football stories this week… so, that trend continues with my ranking of the best — and worst — places to tailgate in college football.
Obviously since I was told to write this piece, I am an expert. How that was decided upon is something that I do not know … but, here is the 100% facts listing of places to party and places to avoid if you are hitting a game this fall.
ACC: Virginia Tech (best) and Miami (worst). So… at Virginia Tech the lots open at 7 a.m., no matter what time the game starts. That means you can get a great parking spot and get to getting after it. The other cool thing about games in Blacksburg is that the fans are super chill and it inevitably goes from a bunch of tailgates to one big tailgate party — even with the opposing team fans. It has to be one of the most welcoming places to check out a game. It is also one of the best weather destinations in the conference. Generally not to hot or too cold. So the attire is perfect. Miami, well, Miami sucks for sports. The stadium is not on campus but at Hard Rock Stadium, where the Dolphins also play. So your chance to enjoy an actual campus experience isn’t there. Also, there are hardly any fans of Miami and the games are not well attended, so what do you think the tailgate will be like? Equally shitty.
B1G: Wisconsin (best) and Purdue (worst). This was a tough call at the top because the conference actually has a lot of really good spots to party at. Wisconsin, Penn State, Iowa, Michigan, Nebraska are all a lot of fun. Madison is a beautiful college town and so it gets the nod. The atmosphere on campus and in the lots are awesome — and sometimes the two+ story beer bongs (yes, they exist) get flowing and a lot of the student section ends up filing in late to the game super wasted. The fans are friendly for even opposing fans, for the most part, and so the overall experience is cool. On the flip side, Purdue was as easy choice for a terrible tailgate. First, as I already mentioned in another piece, my opinion of West Lafayette is just barely above Trenton, New Jersey… just a shitty town that happens to have a college in it. Purdue football sucks. The stadium sucks. The tailgating sucks. There is nothing redeemable about it. Avoid a Purdue game at all cost.
Big XII: West Virginia (best) and Baylor (worst). As someone who almost went to West Virginia, I may be a little biased here… but, Morgantown on gameday is electric. There is a ton of food and booze flowing. It has a great group of people always either tossing bags or hucking dice. Televisions are on early to watch games and eat. The only drawback is that the lots can be confusing, so make sure you know where you and your friends are going to be otherwise it could be a pain in the ass to get the day going. Baylor football kind of sucks and so they don’t do much with tailgating. It has a more upper crust fan base and so a lot of the cooler parties are actually on the water — not like the Vols Navy, but that is what they aspire to be. The stadium is also across the river from campus, so getting there and back is not something you want to walk while you are wasted, making it less than ideal. The Corner is where most of the tailgating actually happens but it is permit parking and doesn’t lend itself to just finding a spot and making new friends with drinks.
PAC12: Washington (best) and UCLA (worst). Like the pro sports in the area, UDub has some incredible fans and that makes this experience worth taking in. Husky Stadium is on campus and has a beautiful view once you get into the stadium. The fans make this experience because there are a lot of unique rules — like no open flame cooking, if you want burgers and dogs — but the purple and gold faithful always have plenty of beer options and make the party count. Similar as to why Miami sucks for tailgating, UCLA doesn’t have an on-campus stadium. Sure the Rose Bowl is cool, but it is 30 miles from campus…. seriously, 30. So you have to arrange how to get there and get back to wherever you are going. There isn’t a chance you leave the game and dip back onto campus to hookup, just isnt in the cards. If you tailgate for UCLA games, you are going to a UCLA game. A lot of the tailgating is actually done on a nearby golf course — which is about as fun as it sounds — and there are a lot of rules in place for what can and can not go on there. Skip it.
SEC: LSU (best) and Vandy (worst). This was a tough call… LSU for night games is the overwhelming answer, but Ole Miss is a strong contender for the title. A lot of fans will bring their rig in on THURSDAY and start the party. If you plan on parking on gameday and finding a good spot, forget it. Get there early and get ready! The food is insanely good and everyone is making their own unique blend of cocktails. The student body is not as appealing as Ole Miss, but the overall tailgate is where it is at. A night game at LSU — against Bama, Florida, or Georgia takes this place over the top. Vandy is the no-shock loser in the SEC tailgate scene. Its stadium is a dump and its football team has sucked for so long that most of the tailgating is actually with random clusters of visiting team fans that come to Nashville. There is not much room in and around the stadium and those that do tailgate are often upper class parents that are not looking to get after it too hard. The Vandy guys are still treating the game like legacy bids, and acting like assholes. It is not the place to be in the SEC.
Honorable Mentions: Marshall and Ohio University. Having been to tailgates at both of these schools (and Halloween at Ohio) both schools know how to party. Football is secondary to having a blast and getting wasted. If you are within driving distance to either, convince your friends it is a worthwhile trip to make.