Alumni mixed on new tailgate rules

After the University announced a stricter set of tailgating rules last Thursday, members of Yale’s alumni community have voiced mixed responses to the changes.

Two of the new regulations — restrictions on the duration of tailgating and the creation of a vehicle-free tailgating area — apply solely to students, but bans on kegs and most oversized vehicles at future athletic events will impact all attendees. Though several alumni interviewed said they believe the new regulations will make Yale’s football tailgates safer, others were either unsure the new policies would have any impact or concerned that they would take away from the alumni experience at Yale’s games.

Administrators issued changes to Yale’s tailgating policies after one person died and two others were injured at November’s Harvard-Yale game when a U-Haul carrying kegs bound for the Sigma Phi Epsilon tailgate at the Yale Bowl crashed into a crowd of people in the Bowl’s D-Lot.

Robert Abare ’09, a former captain of the football team, said he “fully supports” the new policies and does not believe they will reduce the number of students and alumni that attend games. The stricter tailgate policies could even increase attendance at football games, Abare said, because they will help draw the focus of Yale football fans to the games themselves.

“While a player, I always heard of the days when attendance at the bowl would be 30,000-plus on a regular basis,” Abare said. “Although those days are now few and far between, hopefully this new ruling will put a few more people in the stands.”

Though Abare said the new regulations will not prevent all students and alumni from sometimes drinking too heavily, he said the new rules will make the overall tailgating experience safer.

Gary Townsend MED ’66, who was present at last year’s Harvard-Yale game, called the new polices “naturally good ones,” noting that they will make the events safer and “probably improve” the alumni experience of football games. He said most alumni do not bring kegs or large U-Haul trucks to tailgates.

But Brandt Hollander ’08 said the new regulations — specifically the ban on kegs — will impact alumni’s ability to socialize at tailgates, though Hollander said he understands the administration’s obligation to keep attendees safe at athletic events.

“I personally plan to keep attending football games,” Hollander said. “It’s really tragic what happened this past year, and whatever the school needs to do to make sure people are safe is what’s important. I’m sure the students will still find a way to have fun.”

Two of eight other alumni interviewed said they had not heard that Yale announced stricter tailgating polices, while four said they do not attend University football games.

Previous attempts by the administration to tighten tailgating policies have not gone uncontested. In 2005, Hollander said he remembers alumni protesting an administrative decision to end tailgating at halftime. Two years later, arguments by the Yale College Council convinced University officials not to ban U-Haul trucks, he added.

Yale spokesman Michael Morand ’87 DIV ’93 said alumni attend sporting events primarily to see the games, and will continue to do so despite the stricter tailgate regulations.

Stephen Blum ’74, the Association of Yale Alumni’s senior director of strategic initiatives, deferred questions about the tailgating policies to AYA Executive Director Mark Dollhopf ’77. Dollhopf did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

The 2011 Harvard-Yale game drew more than 55,000 attendees to the Yale Bowl, according to Yale Athletics.

Michael DiScala contributed reporting.

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