School unity is something that is often palpable, especially when it comes to sports. It is an energy that is hard to encapsulate into a single feeling. The bonds of pride, teamwork, and passion roll into one ball of emotion that explodes fanatically every time your team takes the field. And for colleges that live and breathe that sense of pride, tailgating isn't just a casual endeavor. It is an art form.
Tailgating is the perfect blend of fanatical sports pride, savory foods that you can't believe were cooked in the back of a truck, and plenty of delicious beer (and stronger stuff). You're entertaining while being entertained, which is part of the reason that nothing compares to a college tailgate. From alumni reliving their glory days, to current students looking to have a good time, a college tailgate is an epic event for all involved. And what makes a tailgate great actually has little to do with the school's team itself.
Sure, if your team is on a winning streak, that always keeps the crowd going, but a successful tailgate is measured by far more than success on the field. It's all about traditions: war paint dutifully applied, folks who'll camp out for days waiting for the perfect spot, the expenditure of hundreds of dollars on food all season long to feed the masses and create the perfect atmosphere. Much as a team works together to win a game, the fans work together to create the perfect tailgate.
What exactly makes a tailgate one of the best in the country? We decided to do a thorough investigation that gave fans not only an opportunity to vote for their alma mater, but also to reveal their favorite tailgating traditions. To do this, we took to social media and asked the fans and followers of 70 college teams (the ones that are considered to be the best football colleges in the country) to vote in a 10-question survey.
In addition to the survey results, we factored in each school's top traditions, how many traditions there were, and how many people participated in them at each tailgate. We also took atmosphere into consideration. Were tailgate lots wide and spacious or overcrowded? Was the crowd wild and rowdy or gleefully inebriated? And just how long did the party last? Our fourth category was, of course, focused around the food and drink. We favorably marked schools that not only have iconic tailgate dishes and cocktails, but also have access to surrounding catering and bar scenes. And finally, we conducted our own editorial review, which took all of these factors into consideration, and looked at how strong the alumni and student spirit was through their social engagement and program offerings.
If you want to cheer on your favorite college football team, then, stop by one of these epic tailgates for a guaranteed good time!
#5) University of South Carolina
literally take the party to the streets. With a stadium located off campus, game days mean rowdy fans chowing down on bacon-wrapped hot dogs and washing them down with apple-pie moonshine. But the coolest part of the University of South Carolina’s tailgate scene? It has to be the "Cockabooses.” They are repurposed, South Carolina-themed cabooses on an abandoned railroad track that are fully loaded with all the things on your tailgate wishlist. Photo Credit: © Flickr / Kevin OliverClick Here to see More of the Best Colleges for Tailgating
#4) North Dakota State University
Reserve your spot early if you are a Bison
fan: things are about to get intense. With a killer marching band, an intense spread of food, and a whole lot of diehard fans, tailgating in North Dakota is an experience. The coolest part about a North Dakota State tailgate has to be their traditions. For one, at the game, you can play a real life game of “Where’s Waldo?” by finding the one kid at the game who is dressed up like that elusive character. Deer sausage, as it is affectionately called, is a must for the menu. And Icehole (mint schnapps) is a staple. You shouldn’t have to ask about it though, because according to real fans if you need an explanation, “stay far away.” Photo Credit: © Flickr / Casey Helbling
#3) University of Southern California
Hours before kickoff, fans flood the Trousdale to set up for a wild day. Be sure to follow the band as it plays around campus and partake in the game-day tradition of kicking the flagpole at the edge of campus for good luck. The USC tailgate
is only majorly amped up for UCLA games, where you’ll find plenty of UCLA teddy bears dragged around campus or hung up in trees. Photo Credit: © Flickr / Neon TommyClick Here to see More of the Best Colleges for Tailgating
#2) University of Mississippi (Ole Miss)
To have a tailgate experience like you’ve never had before, you have to visit The Grove at Ole Miss
. Prepare for sensory overload: in addition to the miles of tented, Rebel-Nation-loving fans in red, white, and blue garb, there are folk hanging chandeliers and donning bow ties and pearls. This is one very serious party time. All of this is just a precursor to the Walk of Champions, where players walk to the stadium through The Grove full of fans on the way to victory. The spirit and pride Ole Miss fans have fills the stands and overflows outside the game for post-parties that rage on and on. Photo Credit: © Flickr / Ken Lund
#1) Louisiana State University
won our hearts by offering one of the most gourmet tailgating experiences you could have. Channeling that true Baton Rouge spirit, tailgates are overflowing with alligators and pigs on the pit, boiled crawfish, and steaming gumbo. The LSU band marches down the hill to the stadium, inciting an atmosphere of pure fun. Tailgate setups are so elaborate, you feel like a living room has moved onto the lot, which is good because you should get comfortable — the party doesn’t stop all day or all night. Click Here to see More of the Best Colleges for TailgatingPhoto Credit: © Flickr / Rusty Tanton
-Lauren Gordon, The Daily Meal