Tailgating takes center stage at Hornet football games

A Sacramento State football fan gathers in the parking lot to
enjoy his tailgating experience.


A Sacramento State football fan gathers in the parking lot to enjoy his tailgating experience.

Nicole Bee

Food, camaraderie and spirit are what spectators can find at a tailgate event prior to every Sacramento State home football game.

In the midst of tailgating, Sac State fans gather for the Hornet Walk before the games.

Athletic Director Terry Wanless said the Hornet Walk is an opportunity for the football team to walk down the main aisle in the Parking Lot 8 to get recognition from all of their fans. He said our players, led by a campus police car, the band, the cheer team and the dance team walk through the tailgate section known as “Hornet Walk.”

“We created this tradition five years ago to give our players and our fans a special memory of what it’s like to be a part of something special,” Wanless said. “I have had several players who have graduated share with me that this was a very special memory for them.”

There are alumni, student organizations, families of the players and Hornet football fans from the local area that come out to the pre-game activities.

Alumnus Tony Curry, member of the 1964 Hornet football team, said he enjoys going to the games to reunite with old friends.

“I go to every home game because every game is like homecoming for me and because of the football,” Curry said.

The environment of the tailgate is generally welcoming to all sorts of people because it does not get out of control, said Sacramento State Police Lt. Scott Christian.

“Most of the folks who go to the games are generally well behaved,” Christian said. “It is a family atmosphere, so there are lots of kids running around. It’s not really a drink fest.”

The families of the players decorate their area in the tailgating section of the parking lot with supportive banners including the players name, life-size posters and lots of green and gold.

The Macile family traveled three hours in order to come to the game Saturday and watch their son, sophomore tight end DJ Macile. His sisters make all of the green and gold glitter posters for the tailgating area a week prior to the game.

DJ Macile’s mother, TJ Macile, determines what can be changed the next time she comes to Sac State for a tailgate.

“This is our first time tailgating here, so we are like rookies. We have been taking notes and seeing what everyone else does in their tailgating area,” TJ Macile said. “The other camps have life-size posters of the players, big screen TVs, and games for their areas.”

The tailgating section for football player Dustin Pfaff was put together by his friends and family. Pfaff’s girlfriend, Courtney Perry, displayed a life-size poster of Pfaff.

“We have never won the tailgating competition before, but this year we made a Sac State beer pong table that is painted green and gold,” Perry said. “But the most important thing is getting all of Dustin’s friends and family together to just support Dustin on game day.” 

As a part of the tailgating atmosphere, a competition for the best tailgate occurs during Homecoming. Chris Higdon and Margot Bach were the judges of the Homecoming tailgating competition this year that is annually judged by two members of the Sac State Alumni Association.

“Tailgating competition is mainly judged on the factor of food and this is because the judges can be bribed with the food,” Higdon said.

But food is not the only factor to the judging process.

“The tailgates are also judged on conviviality and if they are welcoming to us,” Bach said. “The friendliness is important.”

Terry Pham, four-year marching band member, said tailgaters should expect unique steps in their march from each section of the marching band when they play.

“We bring excitement, cheer and more spirit. Especially spirit because everyone loves us and we love them,” Pham said.

Bob Miller, Hornet quarterback from 1965, has been a regular tailgater at the football games since his nephew Marshall Sperbeck became the head coach. At every tailgate, Miller said he occupies the same location where he sets up Miller’s Island.

“My favorite thing about the games is camaraderie of all the people who come here,” Miller said. “We try to build up a backing and get everyone involved so they can participate in something really positive.”

The next Hornet tailgate will be Nov. 12 when Sac State plays Idaho State University.

Nicole Bee can be reached at [email protected].