Students celebrate return of UMass football with tailgate festivities

By Anthony Rentsch

(Alec Zabrecky/Daily Collegian)
(Alec Zabrecky/Daily Collegian)

The air was full of Frisbees and the smell of hot dogs and hamburgers sizzling on charcoal grills. And with all these festivities, one thing was very clear among the students: it is nice to have football back at the University of Massachusetts.

For most undergraduate students, the Homecoming football game marked the start of a new era, one where watching a Football Bowl Subdivision football team and tailgating on Saturday mornings are possible after two-plus years of the Massachusetts football team playing two hours away at Gillette Stadium.

Despite the fact that the student section was nearly packed to capacity at kick off, it slowly whittled down to less than half of its original number during the closing minutes of UMass’ 47-42 loss against Bowling Green.

However, the main event on Saturday was the pregame tailgate.

Students, alumni and parents all packed into the parking lots across the street from the Southwest Residential Area starting at 11 a.m., sitting in the beds of pickup trucks and lawn chairs, laying out spreads of home-cooked and freshly grilled food and playing every lawn game known to man.

A little closer to McGuirk Alumni Stadium, the University added its own flavor to the tailgate, including both Baby Berk trucks, ice cream trucks, photo booths and even a rock wall. Live music was also provided by Malado!, a local band based out of Springfield, and Sharp Attitude, a UMass a Capella group. Members of the Homecoming Court even paraded around in a horse-drawn wagon.

This atmosphere was transported into McGuirk Stadium. A raucous student section chanted and cheered as the Minutemen jumped out to a 7-0 lead in the first quarter.

However, in terms of the student fan section excitement, things went downhill from there when large chunks of the student body filed out of the stadium following the first half of the game.

Students watched as a fan ran onto the field and evaded security guards before being caught in the bleachers near the student section. Not long into the third quarter of the game, the video screen fell backwards.

The exact challenge, many said, is going to be encouraging students to remain in the stadium for the entire game.

“Hopefully more people will go to the game instead of just going to the tailgate,” said Max Gold, who was manning a temporary tattoo booth, run by his family-owned business Gold Group. “It’s great, the difference between being bused to Gillette Stadium versus walking to a place close to the dorms. I think it will have a positive impact on UMass football in general.”

On a day that was supposed to be all about tailgating and football, some did express concern about how the police would respond to such a large-scale drinking event.

“I thought the police presence was overkill, but not overbearing,” Gold said. “The last thing you’d want on this day is too much police.”

Police officers spent most of the late morning and early afternoon tailgate roaming up and down the rows of the parking lots, talking and joking with tailgaters and gently reminding people not to blast their music so loudly or to limit the number of people sitting in the bed of pickup trucks. No arrests were made.

Anthony Rentsch can be reached at [email protected]