Grove plans hailed as good compromise

By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal

OXFORD – Reaction was largely positive Wednesday after the University of Mississippi game day committee decided not to charge tailgating fees and assign spaces in the Grove.
Access to the tailgating venues will remain free during the 2010 football season. Ole Miss’ game day committee made the unanimous recommendation Tuesday.
A fee structure with an accompanying space assignment had been considered to help control competition for choice spaces in the Grove after the Faculty Senate asked Chancellor Dan Jones to take steps to protect academic time.
“It is just so hard to run classrooms and schedule research and … support our academic mission when people start tailgating at noon on Friday,” said Dr. Ken Sufka, president of the Faculty Senate.
Oxford Catering secures and furnishes tailgating locations for its catering clients. Owner Tori Puckett says she is relieved that the fee-reserved space proposal has been abandoned.
“How can you make it fair?” she said. “Money talks, and it just didn’t seem fair to me.”
Puckett said that with 2010 being both a rebuilding year for the Ole Miss football team and short on high-profile SEC home games, charging for tailgating spaces could have backfired on the university.
“This wasn’t the year to do that. Maybe next year will be a different ballgame,” she said.
As an alternative to fee-reserved spaces, the committee recommended moving last year’s 6 p.m. Friday tailgate starting time to 10 p.m. and barring vehicles carrying tailgating tents from campus until the later hour.
“There was such an interference we were going to have to do something,” said University Police Chief Calvin Sellers, noting commercial interests were the biggest problem.
“They were bringing truckloads of tents, tables and chairs, blocking the streets,” Sellers said. “You couldn’t even walk through some of the parking lots for them.”
Sufka said the later hour is a move in the right direction.
“It’s going to provide that environment that’s conducive to scholarship and maybe have the effect of minimizing a very long tailgating session,” he said.
Puckett said the 10 p.m. start time will make it possible for out-of-town fans to secure good spaces. She worries that many people already will be intoxicated, leading to fights over prime locations, except that “They have a lot more security out there now than they’ve had in the past,” she said.

Contact Errol Castens at (662) 281-1069 or errol.castens@djournal.com.