In the dusty borderlands of Tucson, Arizona there lies a basketball school many regard as Point Guard U. After 25 straight trips to the NCAA Basketball tournament, the University has tried in vain to exhibit success in the mother of all collegiate sports. They have everything in place to make a great program, great weather, an exuberant student body and a huge grassy area known as the mall that welcomes thousands of co-eds and locals alike partaking in the age-old tradition of drinking fermented beverages as “punishment” for losing in any number of games including red solo cups, ping pong balls and bean bags. You thought I was talking about their football program??? I’m sorry, Head Coach Rich Rodriguez has a long way to go but their pre-game tailgate is top-notch.The Mall at the University of Arizona is a multi-use facility that is available to rent by students, clubs or its most important use – tailgating. The area has become overwhelmingly popular over the past decade that the University sells season passes for the mall depending on the size of your vehicle and party. Since its inception, the school has sold out passes well before football season begins and has a waiting list for those hoping to get in on the action. You may be asking how do thousands of people show up with limited passes distributed and the answer is that the passes are only to bring your vehicle onto the mall, anybody (and seemingly everybody) can park and walk and party on the mall.
Last Saturday was Opening Day for the football team and eager tailgaters were all waiting for the mall gates to open six hours prior to kickoff since there is a first come, first choice policy for all those holding the “golden ticket” or tailgate pass. After talking to friends that have passes, the best spot depends on what mood they are in or how they feel about their chances of winning the game. If they feel like they are going to get blown out, it is best to park right by the front gate for an early exit, if it is going to be a packed rivalry game than they prefer to be in the middle of the action to check out the best “scenery.”
Expectations going into Saturday’s game were high as they had a new coach, a new regime and were going up a lesser opponent in the Toledo Rockets out of the MAC. We arrived around 2pm and fought our way through the maze of young, nubile bodies all decked out in their red Zona Zoo shirts and began drinking. A game of beer pong was progressing slowly at our area so we meandered to a neighboring spot that had the roar of flip cup and although we didn’t know them from Adam, we asked if we could join in the next game. Although my friend and I graduated college many, many years earlier, we were gladly welcomed because we knew how to impress the kids… a lot of free beer. We definitely held our own against the youthful group and headed back to our area for some of the best food in the region – carne asada. For 24 hours prior to each game, my friend would buy a couple hundred dollars worth of the Southwestern specialty and marinate in what I call “magic juice,” it makes the meat, so sweet yet with a spicy kick, so tender that you don’t need any utensils other than a tortilla, incredible with beans and rice or by itself.
After chowing down, my buddy and I went for a stroll throughout the vast landscape “to see what there was to see” and we were by no means disappointed. As the day grew hotter and the coeds became drunker, we were privy to several displays of flashing females as well as our fair share of drunken douchebags, the god outweighed the bad and we even had a chance to meet up with some cheerleaders. The next day, I saw that my buddy had posted his picture with the cheerleaders as his profile picture on Facebook and the running theme in the comments was that he was their tailgate hero. All in all, I would say it was definitely one of the best ways to spend a hot Arizona afternoon on the campus at the University of Arizona, now to work on that football team.