Before freezing through a disappointing 125th Harvard-Yale football game, hundreds of Elis endured an equally cold reception at Harvard’s scaled-down tailgate.
For two hours before the game, a smaller than usual crowd of students assembled in school colors and shivered in the cold, some of them drinking from illicit flasks — if they were brave enough to take their hands out of their pockets, that is.
The festivities before Saturday’s game were widely expected to be a flop after Harvard last month unveiled stricter rules for the tailgate. And while students seemed ready to accept the bans on U-Hauls, underage drinking and tailgating past kickoff, the 29-degree weather and single-digit wind chill outside Harvard Stadium on Saturday caught many of them by surprise.
But despite stricter regulations announced prior to The Game tailgate, the number of alcohol-related hospitalizations at this weekend’s Harvard-Yale festivities increased dramatically from 2006, when The Game was last held in Boston from approximately two to nine in 2008.
Alumni said student turnout seemed smaller than in past years, suggesting that Harvard’s policies may have caused some students to skip the tailgate altogether. Still, others persevered, trying “to have fun with Harvard’s lame rules,” as Michelle Wong ’08 put it.
“It’s a lot smaller this year,” Wong said. “It’s sad. It’s a lot better at Yale.”
Students were quick to attack the student tailgate’s location. Attendees had to walk past Harvard Stadium, a grassy field and an outdoor track to find the several fenced-in tennis courts inside of which students were corralled for the tailgate.
By 11:15 a.m. — over halfway through the shortened tailgate — several hundred students had gathered on the courts, where they huddled for warmth and gripped steaming cups of clam chowder.
“I never thought tennis courts could be used for a lamer activity, but I’ve been proven wrong,” Justin Berk ’10 said of the tailgate.
And Berk had been hoping for better, despite Harvard’s new regulations.
“I felt the tailgate had a lot of potential,” he said. “If people could actually find where it was.”
Harvard’s attempts to keep the tailgate in line with Mass. state law appeared mixed. Nine people were transported to the hospital November 22nd for alcohol-related reasons, a spokesman for the Harvard University Police Department, Steven Catalano, said last week. In 2006, two students were removed from the tailgate for alcohol poisoning, though only one was taken to the hospital, Harvard officials said at the time.
Both totals, however, pale in comparison to the 30 students who were hospitalized for alcohol-related reasons at the Harvard-Yale game in 2004. That rash of hospitalizations spurred increased tailgate restrictions at each of the past two editions of The Game in Boston.
In 2006, the only way for students to get alcohol at the tailgate was by purchasing it from Harvard bartenders. This year, Yale’s residential colleges and Harvard’s houses were allowed to serve alcohol to students who had wristbands indicating they were over 21.
Many colleges and houses seemed to ignore the wristbands, however, and served alcohol to everyone at the tailgate, according to students who attended. Still, Catalano said HUPD and the Boston Police Department made only one arrest of a minor in possession of alcohol.
According to this year’s tailgate rules, which were sent out by Harvard Campus Life Fellow Jason McCoy, better known to Cantabs as the school’s “fun czar,” individual students were not allowed to bring alcohol into the tailgate. But students entering the tailgate were not searched as they were in previous years. Many students brought their own alcohol to the pre-Game festivities without any interference from police; they sipped from flasks and water bottles before, during and after the tailgate.
Other rules were not strictly enforced, either.
This year, colleges were prohibited from bringing in outside caterers for their tailgates. Courtney Pannell ’11, who ran the Morse College tailgate, said no one tried to stop her when she brought in caterers to The Game.
Pannell is a staff reporter for the News.
In addition to alcohol related-incidents, Catalano said there was one mutual assault and battery incident between a student and an individual not affiliated with either Harvard or Yale. One Yale student was also stopped for public urination, he said.
At last year’s Game in New Haven, Yale University Police Department officers issued only six infractions. None involved alcohol, and none of them was issued to people enrolled at or affiliated with the University.
Ilana Seager contributed reporting from Boston.