Tailgating: A Game All Its Own

For many people, fall means football and football means tailgating. Tailgating supposedly started 149 years ago at the first ever collegiate football game played between Princeton and Rutgers in 1869. What began as park the car, open the trunk and enjoy a pregame hot dog and some chips has become a full-fledged industry.  Each year, we are amazed at what consumers bring to pre-game events before their favorite college team hits the field. Colleges and universities make tailgating as big of an event as the game for the total fan experience. Check out some of our favorite tailgate locales where the food saves the day especially when the team doesn’t earn the “W.”

The South

Colleges and universities in the south take tailgating to a whole new level. Southern hospitality and style are evident in states such as Alabama, Mississippi, and Tennessee. In the South, TV’s at tailgates are not just expected—they’re huge—just like the food. Tailgate spreads feature breakfast burritos, nachos and southern favorites like shrimp and grits, spinach dip, Sweet Tea, fried chicken and Pimento Cheese Sandwiches. If you’re at an Alabama game, you might bring along some of the famous BBQ Pulled Pork Nachos with Pickled Jalapeños from Big Bad Wolves BBQ. For some seriously southern tailgate inspiration, check out the new cookbook from the Editors of Southern Living, The All New Official SEC Tailgating Cookbook.

More Southern Tailgate Charm:

Attending a football game at “Ole Miss,” or the University of Mississippi, is an experience like none other. Ole Miss is home to The Grove, the majestic trend setter for the school’s legendary tailgate and team procession. At The Grove, chandeliers hang from trees, candelabras grace cloth covered tables that are laden with fine china piled high with southern barbecue classics like barbecue pulled pork and macaroni and cheese. A walk through The Grove is like enjoying a rich ice cream sundae where the football game is the cherry on top.

At the University of Georgia, fans enjoy a Georgia Style Brunswick Stew which calls on chicken and pork sausage instead of traditional pulled pork. The unusual base for this version comes from mustard and a combination of unsweetened cocoa, brown sugar and apple cider vinegar.

The University of Florida, or the Florida Gators as they’re known, takes their mascot very seriously. To honor it, they enjoy a Grilled Gator Kebab Banh Mi, the only meat a hardcore Gator fan wants to eat at game time. With an orange juice concentrate, fish sauce and the traditional cilantro, carrots and English cucumber, this banh mi is anything but expected.

Tailgating in the Rest of the Country

University of Wisconsin / Madison – Home of the Badgers and home to a tailgate fixture, the Badger Bash at Union South. Any school that serves bratwurst with onions and mustard along with a big Bloody Mary bar at their game day tailgate is a winner in our books.

Ohio State Buckeyes – If you haven’t had a buckeye ball, you haven’t met anyone from Ohio. These peanut butter balls that taste like a Reese’s peanut butter cup, are meant to look like a buckeye nut from the state tree. Buckeye balls are a standard sweet fare at OSU games as well as many Ohioans holiday cookie trays.

Oklahoma Sooners – If you’ve ever dreamt of a corn dog battered in Cap’n Crunch, know that one exists. Head to an Oklahoma game for the flagship treat from Diamond Dawgs and get ready to order a second.

University of Washington – Here it’s called Sailgating, not tailgating. That’s because sailboats line the harbor outside the stadium and lucky boaters enjoy steaming bowls of Clam Chowder and a selection of the state’s craft beers.

University of Southern California – For us, the hot dog at a USC game represents the best in tailgate cuisine.  The Victory Dog is a hot dog wrapped in bacon and cooked in foil and then topped with veggies like green peppers, onions and more.

The Unusual:

Virginia Tech – Fans chow down on turkey legs or carve up whole turkeys at this school’s tailgates.

West Virginia – Stacks of pepperoni are encased in a sweet dough for the state’s famous pepperoni roll which was originally created for miners heading into the mine.

Rutgers – Home to the RU Hungry food truck, known for its famed Fat Sandwiches. If you are lucky to be there for a game, check out the Fat Darrell which is loaded with crazy combos of food including chicken fingers, mozzarella sticks, marinara sauce and French fries.


Pack up one of these tailgate ideas the next time you’re headed to a college football game. Give us a call—we’d love to partner with you on your tailgate-able product development playbook.