When did tailgating get so big? Let’s look at the history

While informal gatherings with food and socializing have been around for a long time, the specific origins of tailgating as we know it today are a bit more complex. Let’s delve into the cherished American pastime—and how it made its way to the campuses of LSU and Southern University.

Sources: sportsteamhistory.com, lsusports.net, supertailgate.com, history.com, ncaa.com


The birth of college football

Rutgers and Princeton play the first college football game on Nov. 6, 1869. Fans begin gathering around the stadiums to celebrate their teams.


LSU Football launches

LSU’s football program is established as the LSU Football Club by the Dr. Charles E. Coates.

Late 1800s – Early 1900s

The emergence of pregaming

Informal gatherings start sprouting up around early football stadiums. Fans tote food and beverages.


Southern joins the game

Southern Football starts its own game-day journey.

1930s – 1940s

The rise of tailgating culture

The Great Depression and World War II haven’t dampened enthusiasm for college football. Tailgating becomes more organized and widespread, as fans set up elaborate feasts.


Mass production of portable grills and coolers

As tools for cooking-on-the-go become more accessible, tailgating explodes.

1950s – 1960s

Tailgating at LSU and Southern University

LSU’s 1958 national championship victory galvanizes local fandom. Tailgating is now a vibrant part of south Louisiana culture, with fans cooking up regional delicacies outside Southern and LSU.


Going on the road

ESPN, which launched in 1979, first takes its ESPN College GameDay “on the road” in 1993. Viewership takes off. Meanwhile, tailgating reaches new heights as fans invest in decked-out setups.


A digital makeover

With advancements in technology and social media, fans begin using online platforms to coordinate tailgating parties, share recipes and showcase game-day fervor. Fans can now pregame remotely through their TVs and mobile devices.

Present day:

A time-honored tradition

The camaraderie, spirit and joy of tailgating continue to play a vital role in the college football experience for both institutions.

This article was originally published in the September 2023 issue of 225 magazine.