Yale Tailgating Death Could Have Ripple Effect

Over the weekend, tailgating prior to “The Game” between Yale and Harvard turned tragic when a truck carrying beer kegs went out of control, swerved into a crowd and hit three people. 30-year-old Nancy Barry of Salem, Mass. was fatally injured. Sarah Short, 31, a student at the Yale School of Management, who remained hospitalized on Sunday, and Elizabeth Dernbach, 23, a computer lab assistant at Harvard’s Division of Continuing Education, suffered minor injuries after being struck by the truck as well.

Yale tailgating tragedy

New York Times: One Dies in Truck Crash at Yale Tailgate Party

For years both administrations for Yale and Harvard have been trying to reel in the tailgating debauchery that takes place prior to this tradition rich rivalry. The rivalry between Yale and Harvard ranks up there with the classics in other football conferences like Ohio State/Michigan, Texas/Oklahoma, USC/UCLA and Alabama/Auburn. The tailgating that takes place before “The Game” has been nothing short of alcohol soaked and quite dangerous in the past. Reports of keg stands, college students blacking out, overly intoxicated they can not stand or walk much less make it inside the stadium and even reports of students dancing on top of U-Haul trucks and falling off and injuring themselves.

The attempts by the two administrations to cut back on the tailgating debauchery in order to protect safety and reduce liability has been met with tremendous opposition. Much of the opposition has been brought forth by the current students who want to essentially “fight for their right to party”. Even stronger opposition has come from influential alumni. Many of these powerful alumni have placed pressure on the administrations to turn a blind eye. One would assume that these alumni have fond memories of tailgating prior to “The Game” and do want restrictive policies on the pre-game party to damper the fun the current students would have to create their own fond memories.

The events over the weekend could force the hands of both Yale and Harvard to once and for all place major restrictions on tailgating not only prior to the traditional rivalry game but for all tailgating prior to any game. Whenever there is a tragic death that clearly could have been prevented, the pendulum of reaction always swings way too far to one side in order to demonstrate the death and the tragedy was not trivialized nor was it in vain. Tragically someone had to die before both Harvard and Yale woke up. Now we will all have to wait and see what new rules and restrictions come out as a result of this tragedy.

For those of you tailgaters who may not be a Yale or Harvard alumnus, you are probably asking, “How does Harvard or Yale changing their tailgating policies affect me?”. Quite simply, other stadiums, colleges and pro teams may look at the events that took place in New Haven, Conn. and believe it is prudent and smart to further restrict tailgating in order to reduce their liability of having a similar tragedy occur on their premises.

Even though the investigation into this death is not complete, many will point to tailgating and vilify the activity as the main culprit. It may come out that it was a mechanical failure on the truck, although U-Haul nixes the truck malfunction claim made by the attorney representing the man driving the truck.

This tragedy might be blamed on an inexperienced driver operating a vehicle too big and beyond his comfort zone to properly control it on muddy terrain. The police investigation is still ongoing however you can guarantee that changes to the tailgating policies will be coming no matter what the police find.

Do not be surprised if new rules and regulations at your favorite location to tailgate appear seemingly out of nowhere. It very well may be a direct result of what happened at Yale this past weekend.