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Wallace supports athletic community with tailgating

Grinnell College is not the University of Iowa, but there have always been a contingent of tailgaters for football games, even if they numbered in the single digits.  Now after a new policy by the Athletic Department, tailgating will hopefully be present at every Grinnell sport from Basketball to Volleyball. 

Striking out on a road less traveled, Athletic Director Greg Wallace announced at the beginning of this year that the Athletic Department is encouraging tailgating at athletic events. Despite tailgating’s negative reputation, Wallace hopes to build the athletic and school spirit associated with tailgating and he said that a pregame activity is a step in the right direction to improving the intercollegiate athletic experience of Grinnellians as a whole.

“It’s the fact that in a lot of cases, we’ve got students and parents that come from all over the country,” Wallace said. “The idea is to help the parents more than anything, giving them a chance to meet other parents outside of the game situation.”

The tailgating tradition at Grinnell started three years ago, while Greg Wallace was still the head coach of the football team.

“The idea of tailgating was not originally the idea of the Athletic Department, it was the idea of [football player] Jonathan Antrim’s [’09] father,” Nancy Baumgartner, administrative assistant to Wallace, said. “[Mr. Antrim] wanted to do anything he could to help the football program become more successful. He began approaching parents at games and sending e-mails to all the parents he could about this great tailgating event that was happening every home game.”

As a result of Mr. Antrim’s efforts and Wallace’s support, the tailgating trend is spreading beyond its traditional sport of football. The Athletic Department wants every sport to be supported by tailgating, even Golf. Although the events will be non-alcoholic, Wallace hopes that parents and the larger Grinnell community will be the draw to get students to attend.  These characteristics will also help the Grinnell version of tailgating transcend the usual image of a parking lot full of people, beer and oversized-foam-fingers before and during football games.

“We will provide resources,” Baumgartner said. “And while we can’t buy the food, we can certainly help parents [and students] get started.”

The Athletic Department pledges to provide tables, chairs and a tent for tailgating events. The tailgaters will need to bring their own food and non-alcoholic drinks. However, the Student Athletic Committee said they may develop an arrangement for students to provide P-card numbers so that meal plans pay for the food.

There are only a handful of small liberal arts colleges that regularly host a major tailgating event. The mission of Grinnell’s Athletic Department behind tailgating is to provide a medium for parents to network and build relationships and for the students to provide those parents with a taste of Grinnell’s unique ambiance.

When asked whether or not the materialization of tailgating will increase the general win percentage of Grinnell’s athletic teams, Wallace said, “I’m not necessarily sure about performance, but the athletes will certainly have a pretty good feeling beforehand.”

The festivities won’t stop once the outdoor sports season comes to a close, either.

“The mother of Jodi Watkins [’09] hosted a post game reception at the end of last year’s women’s basketball season,” Baumgartner said.

Even if it might not necessarily translate into athletic success, players on campus are just happy to have the support.

“People should do it more often,” Tennis player Lizzy Montgomery ’11 said, although she said the drinks might be too much temptation for her. “It’d make me jealous, because I get thirsty when I play tennis.”

Students on campus are divided on the idea of tailgating every sporting event.  David Opong-Wadee ’12 sees the tailgates as a little excessive.

“I think that tailgating is traditionally meant for football,” Opong-Wadee said. “The fact that our basketball team is our most renowned team on campus allows for people to tailgate at that. But who’s going want to tailgate a volleyball game or a tennis match? It’s kind of just uncalled for and unnecessary.”

However, Alana Vogel ’12, although she admits she might not stay for the entire game or meet, is just happy to join in the pre-game revelry.

“I’m all for [tailgating], I’m all about supporting Grinnell athletics in any way, shape or form,” Vogel said. “Tailgating is tailgating—I don’t discriminate.”

When asked whether or not the materialization of tailgating will increase the general win percentage of Grinnell’s athletic teams, Wallace said, “I’m not necessarily sure about performance, but the athletes will certainly have a pretty good feeling before hand.”

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