Last Updated on 04/14/2021 by Inside Tailgating
I plan on exploring some of the great tailgate experiences around the sports scene. But unfortunately I feel like we need to explore a bit of a lost tailgating opportunity.
I am a big fan of University of Illinois sports. And even though the Fighting Illini basketball team is pretty competitive, one could hardly say the same with the football team. Inconsistency is the norm for the program. One year they go to the Rose Bowl and the next they lose to Western Michigan.
Lost in the football “shuffle” is a great experience of the 1980s known as TailGREAT.
TailGREAT was born during one of the occasional resurgences of the football team. It was an organized effort by the Athletic Association and the local business community in Champaign-Urbana to create a certain level of excitement prior to the football games.
The area around Illinois’ Memorial Stadium is ripe for pre-game excitement. But the loose party system was not working, which led to the TailGREAT parties. And it worked.
The events were a party unlike any other. People looked forward to Saturday. They planned outrageous games and activities. And there was plenty of food and drinks.
And then it sort of died out. Partly because of the Illinois football games slide into mediocrity. Partly also because the NCAA cracked down on the independently run Illinois Athletic Association. Either way the tailgate scene at Illinois is not the scene anymore.
Can Illinois make it TailGREAT again? I think we have lost any chance that the name will be used again, but the opportunity for great tailgating exists there. Memorial Stadium is a flawed but majestic old stadium with plenty of space surrounding the venue. And such a large influential university is certain to have quality football teams eventually.