Tailgate ended not with a bang, but a whimper.
The Main West Quadrangle was quiet and tranquil Saturday morning—a far cry from the “Main Quad Throwdown” that more than 1,000 students pledged to attend within three hours of the event’s creation on Facebook.
Following an e-mail announcing the cancellation of Saturday’s Tailgate last Monday, students voiced their anger and grief by updating their statuses on the social networking site.
“Larry, I want my $50,000 back.” “Candlelight vigil?” “NO NO NO. PLEASE, LARRY! WE’LL BE GOOD, WE PROMISE!!!” “TAILGATE IS MY EVERYTHING.”
Sophomore Renata Dinamarco said she was disappointed that students did not act on the passion they professed online.
“Everyone, when they got the e-mail, was furious. I am ashamed to say that the passion has kind of fizzled out,” she said. “I really wish that there had been a demonstration.... I really wanted to see it, but I didn’t see anyone taking leadership on that—that’s what was missing.”
Dean of Students Sue Wasiolek said she and a number of administrators stood on guard on the Main Quad Saturday, but she is pleased that their intervention was unnecessary.
“It sounds to me that students decided they were going to take a reasonable approach,” she said. “It was not worth their time or effort in a protest.”
Shooters II opened its arms Saturday morning to an estimated 400 students who danced to “Shout” and doused each other with beer almost as if they were in the Blue Zone. Offering free admission, free beer to those over 21 and free transportation to and from the event on the Shooters bus, owner and manager Kim Cates said profit was an afterthought for the club that morning.
“I knew they were probably going to go somewhere, and I wanted to make sure that they were safe and secure and somebody was watching over them,” she said. “They were actually more behaved in the morning than in the nighttime, though they wasted the beer by pouring it on each other more than they drank it.”
Cates said she would be happy to host Tailgate festivities in the future, but she noted she found it hard to accommodate the students’ routine of beginning and ending the day with alcohol. The staff struggled to clean the saloon Saturday morning, Saturday afternoon and then again Sunday morning following three packed bashes featuring many of the same partygoers, she said.
“It was a short night for us—we didn’t get much sleep. I don’t know how they do it, going from the evening and then to the morning,” she said.
The cancellation of Tailgate—which has long been blamed for low student attendance at home football games—may have triggered a larger student presence at the Saturday game. Three times as many students were in attendance at this weekend’s game against Boston College than at the previous weekend’s matchup against the University of Virginia, according to Sports Information Director Art Chase.
“I am really pleased that the students approached [Saturday] the way they did,” Wasiolek said.
But some students questioned whether the lack of a pre-game boosted attendance.
“It was hard for me to tell whether Tailgate made attendance higher or lower,” said senior Jimmy Shedlick, who said he attends most home football games. “I think it might be more to the team winning two [previous] games.”
Despite the boost in students, the game was the lowest-attended contest of the season, with 21,420 present. To date, the season high was the Sept. 18 game against the University of Alabama, which drew 39,042 spectators.
As administrators and students move forward with plans for a reimagined Tailgate, many have called for an event that would serve as both a pre-game and a show of support for players.
“I think [high attendance] just makes for a lot more energy toward the team,” said sophomore Julie Fox. “I don’t have anything against Tailgate, but if people could go to both Tailgate and the game, that would make it a lot better.”
Senior Greg Rivers said he was confident that future generations of Duke students would gather to toast the football team, though he added that he might not recognize the celebration.
“I think something will rise from the ashes of Tailgate,” he said. “Will it be memorialized?... It will carry on in the spirit of a memory. I don’t think anyone who went to a Tailgate will ever really forget it, but like all things they might find that it’s changed quite a bit when they get back.”
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