Power Ranking the Best Tailgating Scenes in the Big Ten
The Big Ten is known for outstanding football, but the experience before and after the game may be more memorable than what happens inside the stadium. This is a look at the best pregame spots for the conference.
Programs like Wisconsin and Ohio State are known for their rabid fans on game days, and tailgating is to blame for the rowdiness. Penn State has “Nittanyville," which rises up every week before home games.
Each team brings a unique spin to game day, but only one fanbase can take home the No. 1 spot. Take a look at where your team ranks, and if you aren’t No. 1, change it this fall.
No. 12: Illinois Fighting Illini
Illinois is coming off a terrible 2-10 showing under new coach Tim Beckman, and the crowd isn’t going to flock to a losing program.
The Fighting Illini aren’t a powerhouse on the gridiron, and the lack of a memorable tailgating experience goes along with it. You will have a good time in Champaign, but the experience isn’t the best in the conference.
If Beckman can get the program back to a bowl game for a few consecutive seasons, the pregame atmosphere will get better. Right now, it’s the worst in the Big Ten.
No. 11: Purdue Boilermakers
The Boilermakers have put together a solid tradition over the years, and a dedicated fanbase lands in West Lafayette on Saturdays in the fall.
Still, the tailgating experience is par for the course. Cornhole and beer are abundant around the tailgating areas, but paying $10 to $30 for parking takes away points.
When games like Notre Dame land in town, things get rowdy, but it is still a tame environment compared to its Big Ten counterparts.
No. 10: Northwestern Wildcats
While Evanston is a nice city in the suburb of Chicago, the tight neighborhood profile makes for a mediocre tailgating experience.
No parking around the stadium is conducive to tailgating, with the nearest lots sitting on campus nearly two miles away from the stadium. If you are a season ticket holder, you have access to the stadium lot, but that is a limited group.
The tailgating is a clean and friendly. Vodka on ice may not be abundant, but the food and hospitality are worthy of a visit.
No. 9: Michigan State Spartans
The Spartans have put together a solid run on the field over the past few seasons, but the tailgating could use a little work.
The first issue is that the lots are only open a few hours prior to kickoff. There is also the alcohol-free Munn Field tailgating area that sits close to the stadium.
According to Michigan State’s website dedicated to tailgating, “No kegs or other common source containers” are allowed and “no drinking game structures and/or paraphernalia.”
While there are plenty of places to tailgate and drink, they are all long walks to the stadium. Having too many rules and limited space knock down the Spartans' pregame experience to No. 9.
No. 8: Nebraska Cornhuskers
The football in Lincoln is great, but the tailgating is near the bottom in the Big Ten.
The Cornhuskers have a tradition-rich program and rabid fanbase, but with limited space surrounding the stadium and rules against alcohol consumption on campus, it can be a bit tricky to have a big party before the game.
There will be plenty of hot grills moving and beer to go around, but you have to be careful or the local police will hand you a citation. Just ask Brent Musburger.
While this is a tradition-rich place to take in a game, the tailgating scene is a disappointment.
No. 7: Minnesota Golden Gophers
Minnesota is known for its passionate fanbase, and the Golden Gophers land here at No. 7 for a number of reasons.
The first is the most notable of all—beer sales.
The Golden Gophers began selling beer at 64 locations at TCF Bank Stadium and brought in $907,000 in revenue, according to a Minnesota Daily report.
Fans love beer, and hardcore tailgaters drink a lot of it.
Another addition to the tailgating experience has been the opening of TCF Bank Stadium in 2009. It brought a collegiate feel back to the pregame experience that had disappeared with the Metro Dome days.
No. 6: Indiana Hoosiers
Indiana was the No. 16 school on the Princeton Review’s Top Party School list in 2012, and a lot of that is due to the tailgating culture.
The Hoosiers also rank No. 6 on collegeatlas.com for top liquor drinking schools.
That trend is trying to be pushed aside with recent rules banning liquor handles from Greek tailgating, according to an Indiana Daily Student report, but there is still some fire in the tailgating areas.
Tailgating in Bloomington sometimes trumps the game, as the on-field product lacks the excitement that a good drinking game can bring.
No. 5: Iowa Hawkeyes
The Iowa Hawkeyes have been struggling on the football field for the past few seasons, but the tailgating is still going strong. Melrose Court is still hosting the festivities, and beer, grills and port-a-potties line every corner.
The "Melrose Mob" has a Facebook page.
Kinnick Stadium is known to be one of the toughest environments in college, and thanks to the party that happens in Iowa City prior to kickoff, it will stay that way.
The Hawkeyes need to start winning games again to keep the fire alive in the fanbase, but this is one of the best spots to tailgate in the Big Ten.
No. 4: Michigan Wolverines
The Michigan football tradition is alive and well on game days.
Scores of fans flock to Ann Arbor to support their Wolverines, and they get there early to hit the tailgate fields before kickoff. Pioneer High School field is a popular spot outside of the stadium, as are other lots surrounding the Big House.
Michigan fan Don Kolis told ESPN, “We're usually here by 6:30 a.m. every game day no matter what. Kickoff time is irrelevant."
This is one of the country’s most historic programs, and the tailgating that takes place during the fall lives up to the expectations that come with the tradition.
No. 3: Penn State Nittany Lions
Penn State has put together one of the best traditions in college football. It is “Nittanyville.”
Before home games, students camp out in tents in front of the student entrance to the stadium to ensure they receive the best seats. This is just one of the many traditions that make this tailgating experience one of the best.
The environment is as good as it gets in college football, as the community stops for Nittany Lions football.
While some schools place restrictions on alcohol consumption altogether on campus-owned property, Penn State just asks that you refrain during the game. We can handle that.
No. 2: Ohio State Buckeyes
Ohio State plays championship-worthy football, and the fans party like champions on game day.
Surrounding the stadium on Saturdays are some of the rowdiest fans in college football. Alcohol consumption is regulated, but as long as you don’t act like a jerk, no one will care. Grills are permitted in almost every parking area on campus that isn’t covered, and the food is abundant.
"Hineygate" has become one of the most recognized tailgating spots in the country, bringing major sponsors and food vendors to the party.
It has been going strong for more than 30 years and marks one of the more unique tailgating traditions in college football.
No. 1: Wisconsin Badgers
The Badgers students are known for their rendition of “Jump Around," but it’s the pregame party that should get more attention.
Known for the “bratburger,” the Wisconsin tailgate brings amazing food and tons of beer to the masses.
They take tailgating so seriously in Wisconsin that they changed state law to make it easier to drink earlier. The previous cutoff was 8 a.m., but now sales can begin at 6 a.m.
State Rep. Dean Kaufert told Fox 11 in 2011, “Clearly there is a tailgate factor. I mean we're in Wisconsin. We love our tailgating. People love it."
If good food and 8 a.m. cocktails weren’t enough, you can now snag one for breakfast thanks to Wisconsin football.
Alcohol is also welcomed on campus during the fall. Madison knows how to party on Saturdays, and its party ranks No. 1 on the Big Ten tailgate power ranking.