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Yale won a decisive victory over Princeton at the Yale Bowl on Saturday, but most students were not there to see it.Torrential downpours Saturday morning significantly reduced student turnout at the last home football game of the year — and, perhaps more importantly to some students, the last home tailgate. Yale’s 14-0 win was its first shutout of Princeton in 71 years, but only 5,711 students, alums and area residents showed up to see the Bulldogs move one step closer to the Ivy League title.
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“We’re not disappointed with the bad turnout. We’re disappointed with the bad weather,” said Associate Athletic Director Steven Conn, the director of Yale Sports Publicity. “We were lucky to even get the turnout that we did.”
After Harvard issued an edict last month banning U-Haul trucks at The Game and forcing tailgates to close by kickoff, student groups and residential colleges began to shift some of their efforts away from Cambridge and re-focus them on Yale’s penultimate contest, Saturday’s game at home against Princeton. In doing so, the Princeton game quickly emerged as the premier event of the football season.
But of the 35,000 tickets distributed by the Yale Athletic Department for Saturday’s Yale-Princeton game, fewer than one-fifth were actually used. Nearly two-tenths of an inch of rain had fallen on New Haven by 1 p.m. Saturday, one hour after the game began, and a heavy cloud cover did not scatter all afternoon. Given the weather, student reviews of the game and the tailgate were mixed.
In Parking Lot D, which played host to the much-hyped tailgate, the rain left students such as Ray Xiong ’12 to try to make the most of a “muddy mess,” as Xiong described it. “It wasn’t as big as I thought,” he said of the tailgate.
Nor as tasty: rain soaked the food at multiple tailgate booths, and organizers reported that, given the conditions, it was almost impossible to grill.
“I ended up eating a soggy corn muffin, and the crackers [at the Branford College booth] were floating in water,” Xiong said.
Some Yalies decided to stay home, or to leave the tailgate before the game even started. Chris Chen ’11 headed back to campus before kickoff because of the wet conditions. “I was going to go to the game, but I was soaked,” Chen said.
Rain also made life more difficult for the Yale Precision Marching Band. Kate Carter ’12, a clarinetist in the band, said she came back from the game with mud up to her knees and a stack of soggy sheet music.
But the fans who did brave the elements seemed to make the best of the weather. In interviews, most of two dozen students who attended the tailgate said they had a passable time. Some took the rain in stride, turning a wet tarp into a Slip N’ Slide or mud wrestling near the tailgate area. Ann Chou ’10, who helped organize the Branford tailgate, said she also felt students handled the inclement weather well.
“With this kind of weather, it’s what you make of it,” she said.
Joanne Choi ’11 agreed. “Despite the rain and mud, it was still fun,” she said. “But compared to the Harvard-Yale game last year, it was kind of a disappointment.”
In the tailgate, at least — if not in the results of the football game itself. The Bulldogs’ win Saturday puts them in position to win a share of the Ivy League championship this coming weekend if Brown falls to Columbia and, unlike last year, Yale tops the Cantabs.
And despite the strict regulations at Harvard’s tailgate, fans could enjoy the parties in Cambridge more than they did on Saturday in their own backyard. The National Weather Service expects the temperature to be in the 30s with mostly sunny skies — and no rain in sight.
Efren Bonner contributed reporting.