Judging from the commentary here, at other blogs and in my e-mail box, I think it’s safe to say that the new tailgating restrictions announced by Michael Adams yesterday are being met with something less than universal acclaim.
Kinda scary how much that scene resonates here, isn’t it?
And, yeah, it’s certainly fair to vent some wrath in the direction of a few bad apples. But looking back at how things have gotten to this point from the perspective of someone who’s tailgated on North Campus for almost thirty years, I find it pretty easy to discern the school’s fingerprints on the body, too. Stadium expansion, an unprecedented level of campus construction over the past decade and the decision to move fraternities off Lumpkin Street each have had a noticeable impact on the North Campus tailgate scene.
Throw in the rising number of night games, with crowds consuming for longer and longer periods of time, together with the administration’s ineptness in planning for the same, and you’ve got all the ingredients for the perfect storm. That’s basically what we got with the Auburn 2007 game. And then we saw more of the same last season. As we’ve seen on more than one occasion, giving Michael Adams an excuse to act generally isn’t going to end well. So here we are.
The thing to keep in mind is that this isn’t being totally driven by a power trip. In fact, I don’t think that’s even the primary motivation for this. The bottom line for this is the bottom line. This is about changing the motivations and the expectations for the (reasonably) well-heeled – the folks like you and me who spend the money on season tickets and like to make a social event out of six Saturday afternoons in the fall. We’re being herded in a new, more profitable direction.
The first hint of that is in the timing of the announcement itself. If you think choosing to impose the new policy shortly after contributions were due was merely innocent timing, I’ve still got that Hahira beachfront property for sale.
But there’s more than that in play here. One real key to what’s in store is the four-hour pre-game restriction. That’s not going to impact the uppah crust folks who’ve paid a lot more money to tailgate elsewhere and it’s not going to have an effect on the twenty one-year olds who’ll stroll up to North Campus with styrofoam coolers and chilled cases of Natty Light, both of which will be thoughtlessly abandoned at the first opportunity. Nah, that’s only going to matter to the families and groups who travel on game day and want to have a chance to set up tents and grills and settle in for a while with folks. The responsible people.
The other key, which seems to have gotten less attention than the North Campus rules, is the complete campus ban on pull-behinds like trailers and cookers. Again, this affects the same group – the very well-to-do and the irresponsible will care less about it.
When you look at this, it’s hard to see how it’s going to have much of an impact on what Adams is crying about. If you’re really worried about trash, for example, how do you not ban something like styrofoam coolers? But if you look at it as a step along the way to monetizing more of the tailgating experience, it makes much more sense.
I posted a long time ago that if these guys could figure out a way to charge you for the air you breathe on campus, they’d do it. An exaggeration, sure, but consider where this is all likely headed, at least in my humble opinion – to a point when the university charges a fee to retain a designated tailgate space on North Campus and a license fee for pull-behinds. The gamble in the short term is to create enough grumbling about how the new rules don’t really fix the underlying problems – much of which the school had a hand in creating – so that Adams can use that to take things to the next level and wring a few dollars more out of a block of folks who don’t share as much of the blame for existing conditions.
There’s no way to win on this. If you complain about the new rules and threaten to pull financial support over it, they’ll spin that as part of the concern over how things have gotten out of hand. If you complain that the new rules don’t really fix the problem (they won’t) and that something more effective needs to be done, you’ll give Adams another excuse to take action.
And that’s the perverse genius of the man here. It’s not just that he’s going to get us to pay money for something that we used to get without charge. It’s that he’s going to do that and make us grateful for the opportunity.
In the end, we’re all nothing more than wallets.