A few days ago the university announced that it had no plans to charge a fee for tailgaters in 2010. The general reaction was collective approval with a splash here and there of "dadgum banker Boone gonna go too far one day, I tell you what!" Anathema as poll taxes, a tailgating fee has been cast as an un-American assault on the freedom of Rebel fans to assemble 'neath the shade trees and get Old Testament-style loaded like their about to embark upon an invasion of Greece. That penny-pinching Boone and Chancellor Jones (secretly Darth Medicus) were at it again. The glory of the Grove was, surely, at stake.
But is there an argument that Grove charging is not such a bad idea?When the season opens up in September, I will for the first time be an ex-Oxonian. A Juris Doctor awaits me in May, and Jackson's my reward. So, I will be in the awkward and new position of driving up to Oxford - tent in tow - for the instant classic opener against Perriloux State. The game will be on my birthday, so get excited for that!
Now, maybe the Grove will open no earlier than 10:00 o'clock, and my favorite spot beside the band won't be taken by some hap-hazard undergraduate. Maybe, but I rather doubt it. So, if I want to be certain that I get my spot, I will have to approach one of the many private "firms" engaged in tent reservation and erection to whom I might pay a sum approaching a thousand dollars for the guarantee that my spot will, in fact, be my spot.
Resist the urge to cast me in the Boston harbor when I tell you that "big tent" is making way more money than their service is really worth, and that a government takeover of the tent business is more efficient. For most graduates there is a de facto tent fee to get a spot in the Grove or Circle, that subsidizes undergraduate liquor habits (not that I have anything against undergraduates having liquor habits, but I've got one too; nobody jumped up to subsidize mine).
What if the university centralized the whole thing? The Physical Plant provides the tents. The spaces are reserved. The whole kit-and-kaboodle; show up on Saturday morning with your tables and chairs and Ole Miss sends you a bill with some specified portion going to, hell, scholarships or something. It's not unprecedented, as Auburn does something very similar, albeit with one private firm getting the whole contract.
Would the best spots be up to the highest bidder? Sure. But they already, essentially, are. Do you old farts think you're going to muscle past that army of tent pros with their factory-class dollies to get your precious spot on the Walk of Champions? Dream on, Susan. So, it would not be such an intrusion on our liberties (or whatever) if certain portions of the university were taken over on Saturday by the university as a tester. Maybe not the whole joint, but just the Walk and the Circle (that way we don't have to worry about paying until we have kids and stop drinking, which, judging by the polar frequencies of our drankin' and gettin' sexed on, could be a while). Before long, I think we would find that all the folks in the "reserved" area are just as happy giving their money to Dr. Jones as they were giving it to some undergraduate.
Here's my point: I am not going to listen to a bunch of Spirit posters, who dutifully give their money to someone else to set up their tent, complain when the university decides that maybe it'd be a better idea if that money went to the school, instead of some hipster that maintains his Ox-leech lifestyle by milking the tent cow five times a year. I am not saying I am sold on the idea, but I am saying that I am open to an affordable business model.