Representatives of Central Michigan University’s administration, athletic department and police department can blame it on the weather, the weak competition or the hand of God.
The fact remains for the second year in a row tailgating in lot 63 before the CMU football team’s home opener was an unmitigated failure. At this point, a complete reversal of all the policies and restrictions placed on tailgating would probably not be enough to salvage the pastime at CMU.
Police Chief Bill Yeagley’s estimates of 800 to 1,000 people in attendance are far more than kind.
Previous to the 2009 policies put in place — a limit on how much alcohol one person can bring to the lot — the tailgate at CMU was regarded as one of the best in the state, often mentioned in the same breath as Michigan State University. It was a part of the university’s culture and now that is lost, perhaps, forever.
It did bring more partiers, and things were raucous, but it also brought more people to the football games and into the community, meaning more patronage for local businesses.
Although it takes place on CMU property, tailgating has never been a university event. A tailgate is simply a gathering of people with the common interest of drinking, eating food and celebrating before a football game. There is a certain sense of independence and, perhaps, a sense of roguishness as well.
It is not the specifics of the policies that have deterred people from congregating in lot 63; most tailgaters would probably not consume more than six beers or one pint of liquor anyway.
The fact that there are rules and regulations is what has squashed the tailgate culture. Tailgate was something that many fans and students felt belonged to them and these rules have made it clear that it does not belong to them any more.
If the restrictions on tailgating are ever repealed, it will not be because the fans or students took it back from the university, but because the university gave it back to them. Because of this, we will likely never again see the tailgate at CMU as the epicenter of mid-Michigan youth culture it once was.
But at least there is no broken glass in the parking lot.