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R.I.P. UTEP tailgating

Published: Monday, September 27, 2010

Updated: Friday, May 17, 2013 12:05

Last weekend, loyal UTEP tailgaters were punished for the sins of a few troublemakers. After numerous crimes were committed at the first two tailgates of the season, UTEP officials announced dramatic changes to tailgating policies that left the campus spiritless before the Sept. 25 football game.

We understand that something must be done to prevent the reckless and irresponsible behavior that has plagued the university in the past. It is never acceptable to be in an environment where, at any point, people fear for the well-being of themselves and their families.

With that said, the new regulations also have an impact on campus tailgaters that celebrate within the rules and who do so without causing problems to others. They were the ones caught in the casted net that was designed to do away with inappropriate behavior.

The collegiate football atmosphere was the biggest casualty of the weekend. With the start of on-campus tailgating held back for two hours, the incentive to celebrate was significantly diminished. Lively music and highly attended parties were replaced with gated lawns and the occasional murmurs from groups who were considerably fewer and farther apart.

If Sept. 25 was any indication of what to expect for the remaining three home dates, then the rule changes will have done their job – at the expense of the game day experience. Reports of rowdy behavior will decrease with these changes, but they also bring the consequence of having significantly fewer people turning out.

Even with new regulations in place, you could still see areas where people continued to break the rules. Underage drinking was not eliminated – there were two cases compared to three the weekend before. Generators were still visible despite rules that banned them. If noise really is such a big problem, then something will have to be done about the amplifier rule to address music coming from cars.

A lot of these changes seem to be a reaction to the high number of incidents for the Sept. 18 game against New Mexico State. Games involving rivals and high-profile opponents will have an increase in unruly activity.

For the NMSU game, there were more than 28 incidents, which was a significant spike compared to the two other home games this season. There were 14 incidents during tailgate and game hours for the first contest Sept. 4 against Arkansas-Pine Bluff. There were 12 incidents for the Memphis game, the first under the new rules.

It seems that if there were more police personnel around campus monitoring activity and dealing with unruly behavior, then the rules wouldn't need to be changed in the first place, regardless of the academic environment.

If the rules were changed directly as a result of this game, then this is a panic reaction by the university. The better course of action would have been to see if the behavior continued for the Memphis game. If activity had reflected NMSU numbers, then it would have been appropriate to institute new guidelines for tailgaters.

And if changing the rules still doesn't work, then they should take away grills, food and footballs next.

Herman Rojas may be reached at prospector@utep.edu.

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