Tailgating Trouble?

            Grills cooking, cornhole bags flying, distant sound of music from the stadium. All common occurrences at a college football tailgate. A tradition only outdated by the sport of football itself. What started as a fun way to hang out with friends and families before games, has now turned into one of the biggest parts of a college football gameday. Some schools are more known for their tailgate atmosphere than others, and that would ring true for in-state rivals Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. Both fanbases have rabid fans because for a long time, college football was king in the state of Oklahoma. Prior to the arrival of the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder in 2008, the state had never had a major professional team. Thus, making college football the main attraction.

            While rivals, these schools have similar tailgate traditions. Both schools have a team walk into the stadium that goes right by prime tailgating locations. At Oklahoma State, it is simply called “The Walk” which takes place prior to each game. The team walks down Hester St., waving and high fiving a bunch of tailgating fans as they enter the stadium. Oklahoma has a similar tradition that they call the “Walk of Champions”, in which they walk along Jenkins St. in front of tailgaters with the Oklahoma spirit squad leading the way.

            Back in the 1990s, all of the tailgating at both schools was basically a land-run. First come first serve. Some weeks you might get a better spot than others, but when talking with long time tailgaters, they will tell you that was part of the fun of it. Former Oklahoma season ticket holder Jimbo Cowns gave his thoughts on how tailgating used to be and how much it has changed over the years.

            “Back in the 90s, in the days of the old Big 12, we used to try and get out there as early as Wednesday or Thursday some weeks just to lock down a spot” said Cowns. “Then would just rotate shifts in the area we pick so that we didn’t lose our spot between then and gameday. It seems like a lot, but it really was good time. Now, you can’t get any of the good spots close by without paying for it seems like.”

In 2018, a company by the name of Tailgate Guys (now known as REVELxp) launched a turnkey tailgating service at a number of colleges across the country. Oklahoma and Oklahoma State were both on the list. Which lead to most of the tailgating spaces at both locations no longer being open to the public, which has led to a decrease for tailgating at both schools. Which could be problematic for both football programs with the upcoming conference realignment, especially for Oklahoma.

The changes that Oklahoma State will go through do not seem like the biggest deal when compared to Oklahoma. Oklahoma State currently is slated for a $325 million athletics facilities upgrade that will see not only the football facilities upgraded, but sports such as wrestling, softball, and track & field as well. According to Oklahoma State athletics marketing employee Ally Jackson, most of these changes will be made on the north side of Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater. She believes there could be minor effects on the tailgating scene, but no major ones.

“So, the farthest south we will go is GIA” [Men’s basketball arena, attached to east side of football stadium] said Jackson. “Really the only thing there is making that parking lot area a bit bigger and adding to the gameday atmosphere. The rest of it will be for other sports other than football, with a few shared spaces that all the teams will have access to.”

While Oklahoma State will not be a team on the move during the upcoming conference realignment, they will still be looking to make a good impression on the newcomers of the Big 12 with these facilities upgrade. Oklahoma on the other hand, is a team on the move as them and bitter rivals the Texas Longhorns will be joining the SEC in the 2024 season. Oklahoma is looking to get on par with the rest of the SEC schools as they have facilities upgrades of their own planned. However, unlike Oklahoma State, these upgrades will have a major effect on the tailgating scene. Oklahoma football YouTuber “onikuno” (real name Sean Forster) gave his thoughts on the situation as a whole.

“You know a few years ago when they first announced this Tailgate Guys stuff, I made a video on just how bad of an idea I thought it was” said Forster. “It just never really made sense to take your prime area, an area that has been free for some many years and make it to where you can only pay to tailgate there. That was foolish of them to think that many people would be willing to pay. Sure, there is still people there every weekend, but not nearly as many as there used to be. And now, with these new buildings and everything, that area isn’t even going to be available. Leaving a lot of us long time tailgaters wondering where exactly we will have access to come 2024.”

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