Hours before a Sooner or Cowboy makes a tackle this weekend, fans clad in like colors will engage in unfettered expression of team spirit under tents and behind grills within shouting distance of the stadium where their teams will toil, building a crescendo of moral support for the game at hand and solidifying a unity of purpose decades old.
This significant contribution to the color of pageantry of college football is tailgating.
Folks like Mandy Grove will gather with family and friends south of Campus Corner in Norman as her family has for more than 50 years. Mandy and friends will come up with a food theme, and the food they share will adhere to it.
“My parents have been doing this for more than 50 years; my husband and I took it over about 10 years ago,” she said in a past interview.
Up in Stillwater, there will be no tailgating as the Cowboys open the season in Arlington, Texas. But when the Pokes return, you can bet Bart Towne and his merry band of Kingfisherites will be somewhere south of Boone Pickens Stadium, using the smoker he made himself and perhaps the mobile Hasty Bake he won at an Oklahoman tailgating competition back in 2010.
“We’ll serve, probably, about a 100 people,” he said back then.
Any good tailgater will tell you a successful tailgate relies on the same thing coaches Bob Stoops and Mike Gundy rely on: a good game plan.
Both the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University provide guidelines for prospective tailgaters to ensure a good time is had by all — even the visitors.
In Norman tents, awnings for tailgates can be set up at noon on the day immediately preceding the game and removed by noon the following day.
In Stillwater, set up can be done after 5 p.m. Thursday for each Saturday game. For this year’s Thursday game on Sept. 25, setup begins after 5 p.m. Sept. 24.
As in Norman, equipment must be removed by noon on the day following the game.
In Norman, tents, awnings and similar equipment must be anchored securely. Stakes must not be longer than 12 inches in order to not interfere with underground utilities.
In Stillwater, tailgaters are strongly encouraged to use sandbags, water jugs or concreted buckets to ballast tents.
Larger tents face a new directive from OSU’s Excavation Permit Procedure by the Oklahoma Underground Facilities Damage Prevention Act.
Larger commercial-type tents that can’t be properly ballasted are discouraged. If larger tents must be staked and ballasts are not an option, an OKIE Locate request must be made no more than 10 days in advance and not less than 48 hours before the date of the event by calling 811 or visiting www.callokie.com/Locate-Request.
The OKIE excavation permit must be posted visibly during the length of time the tent is in place.
Failure to comply will result in the tent being taken down at a cost to the tailgater and jeopardizing any future tailgating opportunities.
Any damage to utilities as a result of not following this policy also will be the responsibility of the tailgater.
The full excavation permit guidelines can be found at utilities.okstate.edu/excavation-procedure.
All fires must be contained within grills or other containers designed specifically for that purpose.
Extinguish charcoal fires thoroughly before leaving them unattended.
Place extinguished charcoal and ashes in designated containers.
Do not dump ashes, hot coals, grease or any hazardous materials on campus grounds, near or on trees and shrubs, in trash cans, in Dumpsters or into storm drains.
Gas and charcoal grills with covers are permitted. Open flames are prohibited. Grilling isn’t allowed on any parking decks within campus parking garages.
But what about alcohol?
A stroll through the tailgating communities in either Stillwater or Norman quickly reveals “don’t ask, don’t tell” is alive and well in the 20-teens.
Each community relies on fans’ better angels to maintain their distance from chaos, and it works.
Oklahoma State’s webpage covering tailgating guidelines iterates tailgaters aren’t above state law when it comes to consumption of alcohol.
Over on soonersports.com, the subject of alcohol is conspicuous by its absence. Clearly, state and federal laws aren’t turned off, but consumption is pervasive.
When it comes to drinking before the game, the rule of thumb is to treat your tailgate like your home.
Law enforcement officers aren’t looking to raid anyone’s home, but if you step outside it and/or create trouble, your tailgating experience will end abruptly with legal action not far behind.
Tailgating areas are located all around both campuses.
Tent city is east of Gaylord Family — Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. RVs typically gather in the parking lot at Lloyd Noble Center.
In Stillwater, reserved Posse RV parking is available in lot 74, Hall of Fame and Walnut, and requires a visible permit.
Limited nonreserved Posse RV parking without hook-up is available in lots 71 and 81, on Willis, north of Hall of Fame, and lot 102 on N Boomer Road. Access to these lots requires at least a Posse Silver Star.
Limited parking for visitors and non-Posse permitted RVs not requiring hook-ups can be found on the north edge of campus at lots 84 and 112, north of Hall of Fame and east of Willis, about a half mile from the gameday shuttle service.
Any four-legged fans should be leashed at either campus, and anyone who wants to sell their wares or pass out leaflets better find somewhere else to do it.
If you’re interested in more details, each school offers detailed tailgating information online at okstate.com/facilities/boone-pickens-tailgate.html and soonersports.com.