Whether in the beloved pre-2018 location north of the Dome, the new spacious location south of the Sanford Coyote Sports Center, or now, across the street at The Heights, there was always something.
But it hasn’t always been a staple. In fact, tailgate has only been at USD for nine years.
David Herbster, USD athletic director, said a university-sponsored student tailgate didn’t exist until 2010. Any pregame celebrations before then occurred off-campus as a way for students to celebrate and get excited for gameday.
“Early on, there was no student tailgating. Anything that happened probably happened in the trailer courts. Students just came to games. They probably tailgated in houses, trailers
USD President Sheila Gestring, who joined the university in 2006, said back then, gameday on-campus was just the game.
“It’s unbelievable how that’s evolved over the years. It’s fun. It’s engaging. It’s so much better than it was in 2006,” Gestring said. “I love the current state of tailgate.”
After making the move from the north location last school year, where the football practice field is now, to the south location across from Coyote Village (pictured above), tailgate found a new home this year: The Heights. The Heights opened this summer as a luxury apartment complex located directly across the DakotaDome.
The Heights has evolved from just apartments to the main attraction on gamedays. After hosting nearly 500 people at their second tailgate party before
Bruhn said they knew having a smaller, poolside venue would help attract students, but they were not anticipating outweighing regular tailgate.
“When we found out the student tailgate wasn’t going on and this was the student tailgate, I was pretty shocked,” Bruhn said. “It was pretty cool, but we want to share the fun with the University too.”
In order to share the fun with USD, The Heights Dakota Days celebration will be limited to residents and three guests. This, Bruhn said, is a way to keep track of who is present and who is “responsible” for them.
Four wristbands were given to each Heights resident, one for them and three for their guests. The bands will also include their room number to further keep track of who is with who.
“That way someone else is responsible for you,” Bruhn said.
The issue with the last tailgate, Bruhn said, was people unaffiliated with the Heights not caring about the damage done.
“We had some people here last time, just random people, who don’t have any affiliation with The Heights at all, and we found out those are the people who are trying to cause damage and harm our facilities,” Bruhn said.
Bruhn said he and other Heights employees kept watch during the party to limit damages. There were no serious injuries.
“I wouldn’t say safety was a big issue; we have a no glass policy and a no smoking policy and we had quite a few people on staff working,” Bruhn said. “It was hard to watch everyone but we made sure we put all of our stuff outside away so nothing could be broken.”
With the success of The Heights tailgate, the university reached out to Bruhn to determine what they could do to have success at both tailgates, Herbster said.
“The Heights was hoppin’. We’ve had conversations with The Heights, not trying to temper that, but we have to understand what they’re seeing and experiencing on game day,” Herbster said.
The Heights are also shutting down tailgate activities by 3 p.m. This, Bruhn said, is a way to hopefully send people over to the game.
“We want to make sure that (USD) has a good tailgate too. The university puts a lot of time, energy and money into it too,” Bruhn said. “They want us to be more of a pregame spot where people can move over to student tailgate.”
Coyote Crazies this year began organizing student tailgate to try and excite more students into attending. Marcus Destin, Coyote Crazies president, said preparation began in the summer and is constantly evolving.
“We want everyone to be comfortable and whatever doesn’t work we ixnay it and keep going,” Destin said in an interview with Coyote News. “You have to be willing to lose to win.”
The Crazies have implemented Charlie Cart pick-ups, large scale yard games and music equipment to hype up the crowd. Destin said the university does its best to give the most entertaining gameday experience. However, the success is not possible without the students.
“Without the students, none of this happens… the party means nothing if no one’s there to party with,” Destin said.
Despite the large draw to The Heights, Destin and the Crazies don’t consider them competition. They just want students to enjoy their game days.
“It’s not us
Austin Lammers and Sarah Bechen contributed to this story.
Correction: The Volante previously stated other than an individual who jumped off the roof into to the pool – no one else was injured at The Heights tailgate. This sentence could have been misconstrued – the jumper was not injured.