Many people look forward to the college football season each fall. Tailgating events are exciting get-togethers where fans go to the stadium and host pre-game ceremonies. These college football tailgate events are so popular that fans sometimes don’t even make it to their seats in time for kickoff. Others purposely choose to stay outside the stadium grilling, playing yard games, celebrating touchdowns and drinking alcohol. 

If you live near or attend one of the top 10 football tailgating colleges, you may have participated in the festivities yourself. According to a 2017 fan index from USA Today, the top tailgating schools and teams include:

  1. Ole Miss Rebels 
  2. LSU Tigers
  3. Florida Gators
  4. South Carolina Gamecocks
  5. Tennessee Volunteers 
  6. Iowa Hawkeyes
  7. Clemson Tigers
  8. Penn State Nittany Lions
  9. Wisconsin Badgers
  10. Michigan Wolverines

At many of these tailgating events, students will be drinking. To get the full picture, it’s important to understand the high levels of alcohol consumption in college environments.

Infographic with the top tailgating schools and teams with their logos

Just How Big Is Drinking at College Tailgating Parties?

Drinking and substance use occurs quite often at college. In a report by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism on alcohol use among college students, 60% reported drinking within the last month. However, tailgating isn’t just for students, and fans from all over the country are able to attend. Statistics from CNN about tailgating events show that:

  • 18% of fans tailgate before games
  • 10% of tailgaters don’t end up attending the actual game
  • 82% of people have two or more drinks while tailgating
  • Tailgaters are 14 times more likely to have a blood-alcohol level higher than .08 after games than people who don’t tailgate

Whether students are tailgating or not, they will likely encounter a culture of drinking or substance use. While alcohol use on college campuses is high, particularly during football season, college students can often feel pressured to drink year-round. 

Infographic with statistics about drinking at college tailgate parties

College Tailgates and the Pressure to Drink

Peer relationships influence alcohol use in college students. In fact, peer pressure is one big reason why people choose to drink. Peer pressure can occur at parties, among dormmates and with friends who drink or use substances. Specifically, fraternities and sororities often intertwine many social events and even daily life with alcohol consumption. Members may feel increased pressure to drink in order to fit in or feel like they belong.

Peer pressure can continue into football season, as tailgating is typically seen as a “socially acceptable” time to drink and have fun. This attitude can hurt people in a few different ways: It increases the chances of dangerous, risk-taking activities and also shines an overly positive light on alcohol use and its presence in social situations.

Though drinking at college and during football season may be statistically high, it doesn’t mean you need to drink to have fun at tailgating or other events. There are quite a few ways you can dive into the excitement of football season while staying sober.

How to Say No and Still Have Fun Tailgating Sober

If you decide to attend a tailgating event sober, you may need to make your intentions clear. It may not always be possible to simply say “no, thanks.” Friends or other attendees may offer you alcohol, and if they won’t take no for an answer, you have a couple of simple options:

  1. You can directly tell them that you no longer drink and are now sober
  2. You can tell them you don’t feel like drinking (you can say you are a designated driver or need to wake up early, as examples)

It’s up to you whether you provide your reasons for not drinking. Now that you’ve overcome this hurdle, though, you can enjoy tailgating while sober. 

Here are a few college football tailgating tips to help you avoid drinking alcohol when you attend:

  • Try out some non-alcoholic tailgate drinks, such as a refreshing mocktail or soft drink. When the weather gets colder, coffee is a great choice!
  • Fill up on all the tasty grill-out offerings found at football games
  • Attend with other sober people
  • Have someone you can talk to and rely on if you feel your sobriety is threatened
  • Have a way out if things become overwhelming
  • If you’re a student, attend with your school’s collegiate recovery community

Infographic with tips to say no to drinking at tailgates and ways to have fun

Determining Whether “Homegating/Dormgating” Is the Better Option for You

If you feel like you can’t attend a tailgating event and stay sober, don’t worry. You can bring the tailgate to your own back porch (or dorm patio). This takes alcohol out of the question completely, as you can invite people who will refrain from drinking during the event.

Though you won’t be parked out in front of the stadium, you can still surprise guests with an authentic tailgating experience. Of course, any good homegating or dormgating event needs:

  • Great food (think wings, burgers and plenty of chips)
  • A variety of tasty (alcohol-free) beverage options
  • Your go-to pump-up music to prepare for kickoff
  • A TV with the game on
  • Outdoor or indoor games to play
  • Friends and fans who are ready to have a fun time

Having a tailgate party on your own home turf is a comfortable alternative if you’d feel overwhelmed with pressure or temptation at the stadium. As a bonus, it’s a much safer option and is usually more economical than buying alcohol and food for everyone at the stadium.

If your alcohol use has gone too far at a tailgate, at home or in other settings, you may need to reevaluate your relationship with alcohol. If you or someone you love is struggling with alcohol use or addiction, The Recovery Village is here to help. Contact us today to learn about treatment options and plans that can work well for your situation.