Sid Seal, a Mississippi alumnus, is usually at this time of the year to finalize plans for the pregame tailgate parties that he has organized over the past two decades.

Ole Miss bills itself as the school that offers “the most iconic tailgating in college athletics” with fans flocking to The Grove, a 10-acre plot on the center of campus. After the pandemic that nearly halted tailgating last year, Seal said he is eager to get back to it this fall.

The 60-year old pharmacist is also closely following the pandemic’s progress, which causes him to delay his preparations. He isn’t sure how tailgating 2021 will differ from what it was before the coronavirus.

Seal, who graduated in 1985 from Ole Miss, said that “I couldn’t say we had everything planned out right away.” It’s going to be changing daily. It will be very fluid.”

The schools across the country are cautiously optimistic that the pregame atmospheres will not change as they monitor the delta variant. Some, such as LSU, Oregon and Oregon State, require proof of vaccination or a negative test to get into the stadiums, but tailgating is another matter altogether.

A clear consensus emerged from the responses of three dozen Power Five schools to questions by The Associated Press about their tailgating policies.

Nearly all schools who responded said they are planning to reinstate the tailgating policies that they had in 2019. However, many noted that this is subject to change due to the COVID-19 status in their region.

This is a significant shift from last year when tailgating was strictly discouraged at schools.

South Carolina, for example, didn’t open its parking lot until 2 1/2 hours prior to kickoff last year, banned tents and asked large crowds of people not to disperse. It also discouraged the use or coolers, grills, or buffet-style spreads. __S.15__

For thousands of college football fans, the return of tailgating has been a great thing.

Tony Young, a 1990 Florida State grad, claims he has missed five home games since 1971. Young hosts tailgates prior to every home game, and serves fried gator in between matches with Florida. He says his traditional spot for parking is so perfect that “we could throw the ball and hit the stadium.”

Young stated that all of his friends who go to the games know where the parking is and can stop by to socialize.

Even for programs that don’t win often, tailgates are often more anticipated than the games.

Scott Feinstein, a Vanderbilt supporter from Mount Juliet in Tennessee, said, “We have a huge banner that we put up with our motto: If you’re going to lose the game, win it at the tailgate.”

Erin Kraak, Wisconsin fans and others cherish the pregame tailgates so much that they attempted to recreate the atmosphere last year after Big Ten regulations prohibited them from attending home games.

Kraak, a 1998 Wisconsin alum, said that there were “a few tailgates in neighbor’s driveways where someone would bring outside a TV and you could socially distance yourself and bundle up.” We did this for two games because we missed tailgating, but it was an entirely different experience.

These tailgates are back in some way.

Andy Bolgzds, a Norwood, Ohio graduate, doesn’t anticipate many changes. According to the 1982 Cincinnati graduate, he believes that all those who attend his tailgates are up-to-date on their vaccinations.

Bolgzds stated that “people are finally getting out” and “living life again.”

Young and Feinstein stated that they will have hand sanitizer at their tailgates as well as in their cars. Kraak said she’ll feel safe as long she’s outside and stays out of the crowds at Regent Street, near Wisconsin’s campus.

Kraak stated, “I don’t expect to spend any time indoors for whatever reason.” “Maybe we would’ve done it before, especially as it gets colder. It’s also a bit cold to tailgate when there are November games. It would be necessary to reevaluate the situation. It doesn’t seem very different as long as it’s outdoors.

Peter West, an Ole Miss alum from 1984, is wondering if there aren’t as many people tailgating as they used to be. West is weighing whether or not to use masks at tailgates. He is also contemplating whether he should abandon a buffet-type food distribution system.

West, a Tupelo dentist, said that “I think a lot people will be leery about crowds.”

Seal acknowledged that things may not be the same as they were before, especially if the effects of the delta variant continue to build over the next few weeks. After not attending an Ole Miss home football game in 25 years, Seal wonders if it is safe to have children at large gatherings.

He has learned from this pandemic not to assume any responsibility.

He said, “I would love for us to do everything fully force as we did four or five year ago.” “But it’s really difficult to say.”