NCF Nation: tailgating 0805
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
From the Cuban flavor in Miami to the Eagles' neighbors complaining in Chestnut Hill, ACC fans can experience a variety of tailgating experiences, but it's somewhere in the middle of the conference where fans seems to enjoy themselves the most. Clemson and Virginia Tech are hard to rival on game day, and even out-of-town guests have admitted it. But each school has its own unique flavor, including Carolina barbecue.
North Carolina has "Tar Heel Town," an area located centrally on campus in the main quad on Polk Place. There is traditional Eastern style barbecue and other games and activities. The team does its Old Well Walk from the Old Well through Tar Heel Town and into the stadium.
And don't forget that "pig is in" at NC State, too, especially considering one of the Wolfpack's biggest boosters, Wendell Murphy (Murphy Center?) is a big-time pig farmer.
Most underrated scene? Virginia. There is a great tradition at Wilk Hall.
Biggest dud? Maryland. This is the one school you won't have any problem with "game day traffic."
Place I'd most like to tailgate: Florida State. Everyone looked like they were having too much fun without me last Saturday.
There are certain college football venues that are synonymous with tailgating, and most of them are home to major BCS schools. But the non-BCS, the little guys if you will, can cook and drink and celebrate college football with the best of them.
So where's the best place to find some non-BCS tailgating?
Lafayette, La., home of the Sun Belt's own Ragin' Cajuns.
Tent after tent of everything from jambalaya and grilled rabbit to gator and gumbo can be found on the tailgating menu. The free-flowing beverages; music; televisions; and loud, friendly people who want to see you have a good time regardless of whom you're routing for. And when it's a couple of hours before game time, the cheerleaders, marching band, players and coaches will do the Cajun Walk and give high-fives to the crowd lining the sidewalk. The Louisiana tailgate proclaims itself the best in the Sun Belt and we here at ESPN declared it the face of the Ragin' Cajuns program.
While Louisiana-Lafayette is the best tailgate, there are several other schools around the country with hearty traditions. East Carolina is known for its sea of purple and gold, including several RV and buses painted in the team's colors. The food of choice is often fried chicken or vinegar-based pork.
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
Tailgating in the SEC is like vacationing in Hawaii.
It simply doesn't get any better, and there's so much to choose from that you think every stop is the best one.
South Carolina has its Cockabooses. Tennessee has the Vol Navy, and I swear I could live in some of the plush Winnebagos that show up on Alabama's campus every Friday before a home game.
That said, LSU is my personal favorite. Maybe it's my penchant for the spicy stuff. But there's nothing like sampling a little gumbo, a little jambalaya and then diving face-first into a shrimp boil.
The aroma just walking through the parking lot to Tiger Stadium stays with you the whole day, and the LSU fans get there early and stay late.
The best tailgating scene in the SEC is the Grove at Ole Miss, which looks like something straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting with the majestic oak trees and sprawling lawn. The beverages are cold, too, and it's never dull no matter how well or how poorly the Rebels are playing that season.
Hotty Toddy, Gosh almighty!
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
There may be college football without the tailgate, but there isn't COLLEGE FOOTBALL! without the tailgate.
It's food. It's drink. It's friends and family. It's anticipation.
It's when the beer is cold and the food is hot and only victory can be imagined.
While folks may think West Coast folks are too chill, too granola, too distracted to take their tailgating seriously, this transplanted southerner must say, "Au contraire."
After covering Auburn for two years, I will admit: I was smug when I arrived in Seattle to cover Washington.
Auburn, now that was a tailgate.
Washington? Hey, look at the lake. And the mountains. But that doesn't a tailgate make.
Then I wandered through the pregame scene for the first time.
Hey... is that salmon? Yum. A little different, but very yum.
The smell of grilled meat (or fish) was the same. The band, the cheerleaders, the scene. The same.
And Lake Washington and the tailgating yachts and the snow-capped mountains -- they just make a Huskies tailgate unique.
The spirit of the tailgate, the life blood of the tailgate, is the same as anywhere else.
The Pac-10 gives you a tailgate at the Rose Bowl. And a tailgate outside the L.A. Coliseum.
Things get pretty fancy outside Autzen Stadium. And you can wear your shorts in November at Arizona and Arizona State.
Pullman is always, always ready to party. Trust me on that.
Folks on the West Coast may seem mellow. They may have other interests.
But when the charcoal gets hot and the beer gets cold, the Pac-10 tailgate is just another region of college football heaven.
Tailgating in the Big East is as diverse as the league's scattered geography.
At South Florida, fans bake in the Tampa sun and some women wear bikini tops to the game. It's usually too cold to tailgate much at Syracuse, which is why they play indoors.
Seemingly the entire state of West Virginia loads into RVs and sets up shop outside Milan Puskar Stadium for hours of partying (and sometimes unfortunate burning of furniture). Connecticut has only been in Division I for a few years, but fans have figured out how to have a pregame take off around Rentschler Field, which sits on an old airfield.
Well-connected Louisville boosters tailgate in train cars outside Papa John's Cardinal Stadium, while average folks enjoy the parking lot party so much that the team had to publicly urge them to get in their seats before kickoff.
Cincinnati's Nippert Stadium is tucked right into the middle of campus, not leaving much room for tents or campers. But there's something cool about chilling and grilling in a pure college atmosphere. Same goes with Rutgers, if you can beat the New Jersey traffic in time to get set up. Pittsburgh fans, on the other hand, can keep the tailgate going from Panthers games on Saturdays until the NFL's Steelers play on Sunday at the same Heinz Field.
If I could go to only one tailgate party in the Big East, I'd probably choose West Virginia for its sheer size and passion. But I'd bring a fire extinguisher just in case.
And there's one other good thing about tailgating in the Big East: The conference has no policy against alcohol sales in its stadiums, so at most places you can keep the good times flowing following kickoff.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
When the forefathers of tailgating conceived the great American pastime, they had Big Ten football in mind. The cool autumn weather, the country's three biggest stadiums and the Midwestern cultural pillars of beer and meat have made tailgating a natural fit from State College to Iowa City.
Big Ten fans don't let those pesky noon or 11 a.m. kickoff times get in their way of grilling, eating, drinking and socializing. And while each Big Ten fan base puts its own flavor on the tailgate, two stand out.
When Penn State plays a home football game, State College turns into the third-largest city in Pennsylvania. The grounds outside Beaver Stadium fill with RVs, TVs and tens of thousands of fans, many of whom remain there while the game is being played. The sheer size of the stadium and the tailgating territory make Penn State a tailgater's paradise. As for food, one Penn State tailgating Web site includes recipes for something called sub slop and a snack mix nicknamed heart attack in a blue bowl. Good stuff.
Not far behind Penn State is Wisconsin, which never lets the weather get in the way of brats and beers. Madison is a metropolitan city, so tailgating becomes a bit cozier, but Badger fans don't mind. Walk along Regent Street before a game and you'll find full bars, brats, cheese and plenty of Badgers having a blast.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
I'll admit to being a sucker for virtually any kind of grilled meat. So a trip to Big 12 games during the fall sets my olfactory senses screaming into overdrive nearly every Saturday.
The tradition of tailgating is strong across the conference, but particularly at the schools of the old Big Eight Conference. Places like Iowa State and Kansas State where parking is so close to the stadium encourages a communal feel where fans break bread together for many hours before kickoff.
My favorite glimpse came a few years ago for a Kansas State game at Manhattan. I got to the stadium several hours early before an early-evening kickoff. Fans had brought a large overstuffed couch and a portable satellite dish from home to watch the games throughout the afternoon. I guess they figured if they had to leave their home behind, why not bring most of their creature comforts with them to enjoy the afternoon before watching the game.
But tailgating is about food and the schools of the Big 12 have specific barbecuing strengths. The schools of Texas typically lean heavily on brisket or steaks for their barbecue. And for those early-morning kickoffs, you can usually find a cook whipping up some mean breakfast tacos before heading into the stadium. Make mine potato, egg and cheese, thank you very much.
If you head North in the Big 12, I've noticed that burgers and bratwurst become more prevalent. And fans tend to make it more of a day-long spectacle, particularly when the weather starts getting a little colder later in the season.
Many times I've wanted to be able to throw down my laptop and head for the smoking meat in the parking lot with the other fans. But duty always calls for me inside the stadium, unfortunately.
We're starting TailGateUnited, a group of fans who post their pictures, thoughts and questions about grilling and cooking on football weekends.And what's a good time without pictures. Please feel free to snap away at your tailgates and share the best with all of us.