Tusk to Tail: Ole Miss has the best SEC tailgate venue (There, we said it.)

Well, it wasn’t what we expected last Saturday in Little Rock by a long shot, but all we can do is move on to this Saturday on the hill. I just hope our coaching staff can get the team to turn the page as well, to get ready for the Red Raiders of Texas Tech.

The UTEP tailgate a couple of weeks ago in Fayetteville went off without a hitch despite the weather pushing 90 degrees. We had a few struggles setting up, as everyone had to work through some cobwebs on where and how everything should go. But within a couple of hours we were able to sit down, pour ourselves a drink, and watch the SEC Network guys wrap up their show on their massive stage just over our shoulders in Victory Village.

The Porta-Cool unit worked well, and I found gaggles of ladies camped around it throughout the day, utilizing the cool atmosphere close to its exhaust. We also had several other fans positioned around the tent to try and keep the air moving. It was most noticeable when you left our tailgate and visited other tents. I heard several guests comment on the relative coolness of the Tusk to Tail tent compared to others, so that was positive, and helps justify the purchase. The cool weather last week in Little Rock did not warrant the use of the big fan there, but if the temperatures for this week hold true at 80, I think the unit will make another appearance.

I want to throw a special shout out to young Jackson Rice, son of Tusk to Tail’s David Rice. He was extra helpful last week in the set-up and take-down, asking lots of questions along the way.

“One of these days, this will all fall on Lawson [May, the Godfather of Tailgating Craig May’s son] and me, and we need to know how to do it,” Jackson said.

That, my friends, is a sign we are raising these boys right!

Things look to be shaping up nicely for this week’s tailgate. We will have several guests from Texas, and each group will have some Tech fans with them, so it will be nice to show them how it is done here. With that in mind, I decided we will have a mix of visitor favorites and local delicacies. We are ordering in about 40 pounds of assorted proteins that will include beef brisket, pulled pork, pork ribs, smoked turkey, brats, and chicken tenders. The meat fest will be accompanied by our usual assortment of side items, desserts, and beverages.

This week’s tailgating tip concerns portion ordering. Usually people will consume about 4-5 ounces of a protein, so obviously one needs to match an appropriate portion of side dishes. Keep in mind the average guest does not eat each side, so if you go with three sides, get 1/3rd of each to match up to the total number of guests.

However, there is a hitch. This week we will set up around 9 a.m. and be ready to go around 10:30 a.m., so we will have a fair number of guests to feed twice before the 6 p.m. kickoff, so you need to account for that in your portion calculations.

During the Little Rock tailgate, there was a discussion regarding how the War Memorial golf course ranks with other tailgating venues across the SEC, so I thought I would rank the entire conference here. Criteria includes available space and ease of access, size and complexity of the tailgates, and the sheer number of tailgaters which directly correlates to the amount of fun to be had.

This is my personal opinion based upon visiting each campus in the SEC. Please keep in mind that on each campus, you have some groups blowing it out each week that may raise the standards, but you have to bring it down to the common denominator. Since off-campus locations like Little Rock’s War Memorial Stadium and Cowboys Stadium in Dallas are included, I’ll start with the top 9 this week.

Ole Miss
You can’t beat the Grove due to the compact space and the amount of decorating that goes into these tents. Due to the lack of space the tailgates are not filled with a lot of technology or comfort, but it is fun.

Arkansas/Little Rock
Much like Ole Miss, there is no place in the SEC with an 18-hole golf course that is opened up for tailgating. In sheer size and numbers, the course beats Ole Miss, but the compact Grove beats the spread-out spaces of War Memorial. However, the golf course has space for kids to play catch and for adults to park their cars, and nobody walks more than 10 minutes to get to the game.

Lots of wide spaces for tailgating, plenty of room for big tents and spreads, but the food is what pushes LSU into 3rd place. 

Alabama, Auburn, Florida and Georgia (a big tie)
These programs each have beautiful campuses with matching architecture that looks like what an SEC campus should look like. The tailgating is plentiful, sophisticated, and not spread out in a negative way.  

Texas A&M
A large flat campus with plenty of room to fit a lot of tailgaters. We did not get to enjoy the full environment, as it rained all day, but we saw plenty of tailgaters carrying on despite the rain, which is a good sign. 

Arkansas/Fayetteville and Tennessee (another tie)
Both have a dedicated fan base, but the campus geography limits the tailgating. Hills are not conducive to tents and chairs, so both campuses struggle to find plentiful flat space for tailgaters. But much like a weed, we find a way.

I’ll finish up next week and hope to see everyone out tailgating this weekend.

Go Hogs! Beat Red Raiders!