Tailgating season opens to mixed reviews

Students tailgate in Topperville, the new student tailgating area, on WKU’s campus before the first home football game on Saturday against Indiana University.

Hannah Bushon

Despite the nearly 90-degree heat, thousands of people gathered on Saturday well before kickoff to tailgate for the first home football game of the season.

Charley Pride, director of student activities and organizations, estimated between 8,000 and 10,000 fans tailgated before the game.

“We had a great turnout for a first game,” Pride said.

Effective this semester, students could no longer park on the grass in front of McLean and Bates-Runner halls.

But about 2,500 fans showed up to the new student tailgating area between 14th Avenue and Kentucky Street, Pride said.

Some students in the new area had mixed reviews.

Louisville freshman Lauren French said the spirit seemed to be lacking.

“More students should have been allowed on the center of campus,” she said.

Other students were glad to be away from the family-oriented atmosphere on the South Lawn.

Louisville freshman Meredith Johnson said she liked the fact that tailgating was spread out.

“There’s separation between families and students,” she said. “It gives people more room to spread out and celebrate.”

Alumnus Robby Wellman said that without a lot of students at the center of campus, tailgating just wasn’t the same.

“I’ve been tailgating here since 1997, and I miss how it used to be,” he said.

Wellman said that his $100 parking spot near the Valley would have been more worth it if the student spirit was more prevalent closer to the stadium.

Nashville freshman Tiera Baca said she could feel the spirit all over campus from her view at the top of the Hill.

“I love the atmosphere,” she said.

But Morehead freshman Kourtney Black said the “less-crazy” atmosphere at the center of campus was more enjoyable.

Elizabeth Higginbottom, a junior from Mt. Vernon, Ind., encouraged her peers to be more open about the tailgating changes.

“The more centralized the spirit, the better the game will be,” she said.

Around 20,772 fans showed up to watch the game against Indiana, the second-highest crowd in Houchens-Smith Stadium history.

The Toppers fell to the Hoosiers, 38-21, their third loss of the season.