On Saturday morning, thousands of people will gather in the area surrounding Goodman Stadium to celebrate the Lehigh-Lafayette football game over food, drinks and music.
Though tailgates often appear to be an arbitrary mix of students, alumni and friends, The Rivalry game tailgates require extensive planning to ensure safety and overall success.
With 50 registered tailgates and many unregistered tailgate groups, planning begins far in advance to accommodate their size and needs.
Joe Sterrett, Lehigh’s director of athletics, said the athletics department is heavily involved with the logistics of the Rivalry tailgates.
Sterrett said his department plays a role in laying out the tailgate locations and providing a set-up and clean-up crew as well as parking attendants.
This year’s Rivalry tailgates are dispersed around the outside of Goodman Stadium, with Lafayette tailgates at the southernmost end of the campus and Lehigh tailgates north of the stadium.
Sterrett said the registration of tailgates and behavioral expectations fall under the umbrella of student conduct, though the athletics department has a list of guidelines for all football tailgates.
According to the department’s website, all student groups must register their tailgates with the dean of students by the Wednesday before the game they wish to tailgate. Other groups larger than 30 individuals must register their tailgates 48 hours before game day. Alcoholic beverages are permitted in designated areas, however, kegs or excessive quantities of alcohol are not allowed in parking areas.
Edward Shupp, the chief of the Lehigh University Police Department, said LUPD expects students to live up to university standards and the law during the tailgates and Rivalry Week in general.
To ensure a safe environment, Shupp said patrols are increased both on Asa Packer Campus and around Goodman campus.
“When we get larger crowds, we’ll increase the level of staff working and the programming that we’re doing in order to make sure everyone is safe and stays safe,” Shupp said.
LUPD has hired Contemporary Security Services, a private security firm in Philadelphia, to assist with the extra crowds coming to Lehigh for The Rivalry game.
Sterett said around 16,000 people have purchased tickets to The Rivalry game.
The crowd at Saturday’s tailgates and game will consist of students and alumni from both Lehigh and Lafayette, though they will be divided inside and outside of Goodman Stadium.
Shupp said one of the reasons why tailgates are separated is to make sure no altercations occur between students or alumni on opposite sides of The Rivalry.
Sterett said tailgate separation is part of the tradition and allows students and alumni to surround themselves with their friends rather than rivals.
“It’s less about concerns with safety than it is, frankly, Lehigh people generally want to gather with Lehigh people,” Sterrett said. “This is a game where a lot of alumni come back to see their friends and arrange to get together one time a year. And the same can be said for Lafayette.”
Sterett said tailgates are part of the Rivalry tradition, but they should complement the game rather than take away from it.
“The only time I’m ever disappointed in the outcome is when people go to the tailgates and then say, ‘I’m not going to go to the game, I’m just going to party,’” Sterrett said.
Christian Dietz, the president of University Productions, has worked with various student groups to ensure the tailgates are enjoyable and encourage students to attend the game.
“Historically (University Productions hasn’t) played a role in Le-Laf,” he said. “But this year, we’re working with (Ricardo Hall, the provost for Student Affairs) a lot to promote a more Lehigh atmosphere, somewhere where every student is included and has something for them to enjoy.”
Part of that, Dietz said, is having a tailgate space that is not only dominated by Greek chapters.
He said University Productions, along with Student Senate and Global Union, is working to foster a more communal environment.
“We’re going to have two plots in the tailgate space, like fraternities and sororities do, and we’re going to provide central entertainment,” Dietz said. “Rather than each chapter bringing their own music, we’re going to have a DJ with large speakers that go throughout the entire tailgate area. We’ve talked the Greek chapters through our plans and they’re on board with it.”
Both the Interfraternity Council and Panhellenic Council will also sponsor the Le-Laf tailgates.
“Our purpose behind sponsoring the tailgates is to support school spirit and support our athletic teams,” Panhel president Molly Bankuti said. “During a week that is so hyped up, we wanted people to know it’s hyped up because of our school and because of our football team, not because of partying.”
Bankuti said Lehigh is heavily rooted in tradition and Greek life is structured in a very similar way. She said the two tradition-based entities are very much intertwined and can come together to celebrate Rivalry Week.
“Greek organizations have existed at Lehigh almost as long as Lehigh has been around,” Bankuti said. “It’s important to realize that our school’s traditions are not only part of Greek traditions, but they include everyone in the student body.”