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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

In many rural areas, as well as some urban ones, there is a bigger issue than the election, and that's this weekend's game. Every weekend, thousands of college football fans look forward to the big game, and of course the tailgating party. To some it's a tradition that is as important as the sport.

(Soundbite of chanting fans)

INSKEEP: But universities are trying to clean up campuses and cut down on tailgating. Among them, the University of Georgia.

Here's NPR's Kathy Lohr.

KATHY LOHR: At many colleges, it doesn't matter which opponent a team is playing, as long as fans can meet up, hang out, eat and drink as much as they want.

Mr. RUSS GOODMAN (Tailgater): Every home game we cook normally about six pounds of chicken wings, 100 pork skewers, five or six pounds of sausages.

LOHR: Russ Goodman from Homerville, Georgia mans two grills on a grassy corner spot outside the stadium. He drives four hours to get to Athens for the game and festivities. Under the large red tent that the group from Clinch County has set up you'll find a big screen television and a dozen coolers filled with beer and soda. It's kind of like a family reunion.

Mr. GOODMAN: The game, whether or not we win or lose, is a secondary to the tailgate. The tailgate's why we come up here, you know?

LOHR: What's so special about it?

Mr. GOODWYNN: We've been tailgating here since we got out of college, and every year when we tailgate, I see friends from college. And they know they come here because we've always tailgated here. And I may not see them but once a year, but I see them, and that's important.

LOHR: But tailgating this year at the University of Georgia includes parking restrictions, family-friendly zones which are alcohol-free, and a ban on setting up tailgate tents and parties until 7:00 a.m. the day of the game.

The new regulations came about because of last season's game against Auburn, according to Matt Brachowski, assistant athletic director at the University of Georgia. He says the game was a big rivalry and it took place at night.

Mr. MATT BRACHOWSKI (Assistant Athletic Director, University of Georgia): Which contributed to people being on campus longer and allowed for more either alcoholic consumption or non-alcohol consumption, but more trash being created. And Georgia lost the game, which contributed to some seeing fit destroy some campus grounds, whether it be landscape or buildings.

LOHR: Over the past several years, a number of universities across the country have adopted tailgating restrictions, including Florida and Tennessee. Both Notre Dame and Penn State have instituted a no-alcohol policy at tailgate parties during games.

Regulations at North Carolina State game after an incident last year when two people were killed during a tailgate party. Many colleges are responding to the problem and the consequences of underage drinking and binge drinking.

Mr. BRACHWOSKI: And just the issue of public urination and the smell the day after a football game around very beautiful and historic buildings is problematic. And that's not a smell that goes away.

LOHR: Billy Molasso at Northern Illinois University has worked on college health issues at several schools. He says campuses have had to deal with more garbage, alcohol incidents and hospital visits because students were drinking way too much.

Mr. BILLY MOLASSO (Northern Illinois University): Anything that college and universities can do to improve the environment and the culture of campus and to prevent the secondary consequences of alcohol abuse is a good thing.

LOHR: Schools that have had tougher tailgating rules for several years say they now have fewer alcohol-related problems after games. The University of Georgia says its campus is cleaner and safer. Campus police are enforcing the underage drinking law and the local police say they've had about the same number of incidents as they did last year.

But tailgaters like Jeff Brown from Clinch County say the administration is cracking down on the wrong people.

Mr. JEFF BROWN (Tailgater): We've actually seen it here in the morning time. At 6:45 a.m. in the morning we've seen more police here telling us to get back in the cars and not get out before 7 a.m. and those kinds of things, which I think is sort of ludicrous from the fact that there's a lot more important things to do around campus than to worry about somebody setting a tent up.

You all ready? What's that coming down the track?

Unidentified Group: What's that coming down the track?

Mr. BROWN: It's a big machine. It's red and black.

Unidentified Group: It's a big machine. It's red and black.

LOHR: More than 90,000 people descend on Athens, Georgia every home game, the equivalent of a small town. School officials say they've made the changes for the majority of fans who come to enjoy the game, not for those who come to campus to drink and party excessively.

Kathy Lohr, NPR News.

INSKEEP: It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News.

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