Seminole Boosters Drop Tailgating Ball for Primetime Showdown against Miami

Streeter Lecka

Two top 10 undefeated teams play this Saturday night in primetime eight hours after College Game Day will be on campus. ESPN coming to your school is a big deal yet the Seminole Boosters are treating it as if this is just another game.

The 2013 version of the "World's Largest Cocktail Party" features two teams with a combined six losses and a laundry list of injured all-stars, which focuses the nation's eyes on one of only two ranked matchups this week. Florida State (#3) hosts Miami (#7) at 8PM, which has all of Tallahasse abuzz, but don't be too excited, because you can't start celebrating until only a few hours prior to kickoff if you tailgate in a booster lot.

In the biggest game of the year on a lackluster home schedule, Florida State decides to throw a huge wrench in tailgating logistics.

The majority of traveling fans drive from Atlanta, Tampa, Orlando or the Miami area.  All of those trips are a minimum of 4 hours.  Keeping that in mind, I'm sure there are many local businesses banking on a huge travel weekend, but now fans can leave at a reasonable hour Saturday morning and still show up with time for a 2pm tailgate.

What about all of those out-of-state fans who can't drive, but have to spend hundreds of dollars for this game, many who are only able to do it once a season?

Out-of-state fans want an opportunity to tailgate with friends and family that they rarely get to see, and by starting at 2PM that time is limited. If gates don't open until 2PM, that means hellacious traffic beforehand with all fans doing their best to be first in the lot to maximize the amount of time tailgating.  Unless you're camping out beforehand, don't expect to park until 2:30 or later.

I hosted a tailgate for several years with large crowds of people, and it takes time to set up and break down, at minimum 30 minutes on each end, which cuts into tailgate time.  It would be crazy to think that 80,000 fans are going to all file in the stadium 10 minutes prior to game time; certain fans like to arrive early, walk the stadium, find their seats and soak in the experience.  That again can take off another 30 minutes to an hour of tailgating time.

There is no doubt that Florida State officials want the school well-represented on national television for the three-hour College GameDay broadcast, and by pushing back the tailgate time they are deterring attendance.  Think about it: wake up prior to 9am, drive to the stadium and support the university until noon when GameDay goes off the air. Then you and your car have to be out of the lot by 12:30 only to turn around and fight traffic an hour later for your tailgate spot.  That is a headache that some will just avoid all together.

Florida State wants to compete for a national title every year, just like the SEC does, it wants the respect that the SEC has earned, and it also wants donations just like the SEC has.  So why not treat its fanbase that way? LSU and Alabama fans certainly would not stand for something like this.

Florida State's biggest ACC rival even understands the importance of tailgating.

There is precedent here. In 2011 the 5th ranked Seminoles hosted #1 ranked Oklahoma with GameDay present for a 8PM kickoff.  Parking lots opened at 7AM that game, and the year prior gates again opened earlier than the 5 hours they normally do for the Florida game.

I have a hard time wrapping my head around why the university wouldn't maximize its exposure during the best football season in over a decade.  It would be incredibly short-sighted on their part if they were trying to minimize costs for extra security, parking lot attendants, etc.  In the day of 60" 3D televisions and college football attendance down in general, the university is making a big mistake. Do your part: contact the Seminole Boosters in any of the following ways.

Twitter - @SeminoleBooster

Email seminoleboosters@fsu.edu

Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/FSUSeminoleBoosters

Phone - 850-644-3484

There is still time to correct this error in judgement, so make your voice heard.

5:45 UPDATE

Boosters will not extend the tailgate experience.

Dear Brad,
We are looking forward to a huge weekend on the Florida State campus as we take on our rival Miami.
We will have ESPN College Gameday here and in addition to a capacity crowd we will have thousands of people coming to the stadium to be a part of the action. With the approval of the university and our campus, city, and county police Seminole Boosters and the Athletics Department were able to extend the opening of all Booster parking lots from 3 pm up to 2 pm, one hour earlier than normal, and to open lot 9 at 7 am for those fans who wish to attend the ESPN College Gameday show.
If you are one of our valued members who want us to open the lots earlier please understand that we heard you, extended the window as far as we could, and are studying what we can do to accommodate your request in future years. Seminole Boosters and the Athletics Department are always trying to find ways to improve the overall enjoyment and safety of our valued members without diminishing the experience or safety of others.
We have Seminole Booster members and season ticket holders who do not want us to open lots early and members who want us to open them at noon or earlier for all day tailgating. Florida State University's primary goal for football weekends is to provide a safe and enjoyable weekend football experience for the greatest number of people and we do listen and advocate for the best interest of the greatest number of Seminoles.
We wanted to take time to explain how we come to these decisions, which affect everyone. As you probably know FSU has the smallest campus in the university system and we are boxed in by student housing on all sides which makes parking and traffic flow more challenging than at other sprawling campuses endowed with large open fields. The remarkable surge in development around campus, and the development of the campus itself, has made the issues much more difficult than even 10 years ago when there was much more space available.
And when ESPN College Gameday comes to campus, with four tractor trailers, satellite dish vehicles and unique ingress and egress requirements, it compounds the challenges unique to our small campus.
Our current policies are based on the infrastructure we have to work with but we have hired consultants to study the unique parking and traffic flow issues here at Florida State University and to make recommendations for improvement. The consultants, who have improved parking, traffic and safety issues for professional and college teams, have visited this year already and will return for the Miami game which will give them a clear picture of what our issues are when we have a capacity crowd. We are also looking to implement changes for next year that will allow our donors to select the parking lot they wish to park in. We are in discussion on designating some of those lots for those who wish to arrive early and tailgate longer.
The total weekend experience is very important in drawing people to Doak Campbell Stadium and that's why we promote the Friday Night Block Parties, facility tours, Booster Life events, etc. We know tailgating is a big part of the experience and that's why Seminole Boosters has acquired land around Doak to provide a tailgating experience within the unique constraints of our campus.
We understand that it is important to satisfy the customer. We've compiled statistics and listened to donors in conversation on a variety of issues before we make any decision that affects everyone. Our parking lot counts on games where we have extended the opening beyond 5 hours show that few come early. In 2010, when we played Florida at 3:30 pm, we opened the lots at 8 am, 7.5 hours before kickoff, which is 2.5 hours earlier than normal. Only 637 cars entered our 21 lots during that 2.5 hour extended window which is 9.2 percent of the cars parked that day. Conversely, 4064 cars entered within the 2.5 hours prior to kickoff (58.77 percent).
Anecdotally, many of the people who arrived early wrote to us to complain about the early lot opening, saying they did so only to reserve their position in that lot, had a friend pick them up, and then came back closer to kickoff.
Parking and traffic flow issues are documented after every game and best-practices are discussed postgame. When we've opened the lots earlier, we have had more complaints from the majority of our fans. The complaints fall into these categories:
1. Whether they live in Tallahassee, or more than 3 hours away (66 percent of our ticket base), the majority have told us they do not want to have to come to the stadium earlier to insure they get a space. Five hours is more than enough for the majority.
2. We have more people site problems about trash, alcohol abuse, violence, not feeling safe, not wanting to bring children, encroachment on their space, etc. after the extended-hours games than we do within the 5 hour window.
All of these issues are documented and discussed by the university, university police, TPD, the Sherriff's office, the Athletics department, university facilities, and the boosters in an effort to provide the greatest number of people the most-enjoyable and safe environment possible.

Sincerely,
Andy Miller Stan Wilcox
President Director of Athletics
Seminole Boosters Florida State University

Thoughts?

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