BY RICKY POLLITT
Coaches, athletes, faculty and students have waited years to hear the words Salisbury University President, Dr. Janet Dudley-Eshbach said at Wednesday’s State of the University.
“We’re going to have tailgating,” Dudley-Eshbach said. “We need to find ways to get people really jazzed about athletics.”
The news comes after years of support and requests to bring the pre-game event to Salisbury and give students and members of the community a way to bond over Sea Gull athletics.
Dudley-Eshbach believes bringing tailgating to Salisbury accomplishes several goals, but wants the decision to mainly award hardworking coaches and athletes, and open up the campus to the community of Salisbury.
“Every year, we’re in the top five or ten (in Division III) best overall in all sports,” she said. “Let’s show that excitement, and let’s get members of the larger community coming to campus. We need to build some enthusiasm and excitement.”
One of the reasons tailgating has been resented by executive members of the university in the past has been due to the challenges and questions that could come with the event.
During her speech, Dudley-Eshbach admitted to wondering how tailgating would affect students, and whether or not students would remain safe during the events.
“What’s that going to mean, and is there going to be too much partying,” Dudley-Eshbach asked herself before making the decision.
With help from Vice President of Student Affairs, Dane Foust, the university is investigating ways to enact a safe and responsible tailgating ritual. The group has also been studying guidelines for how tailgates should be carried out that ensure a successful event for all those involved.
One student cheered at the announcement from the president, showing the excitement and joy that students are feeling knowing they now can enjoy SU athletics in a completely new way.
“I think it would be a great opportunity to allow the students and community to come together and support our sports team and show our school pride,” senior Jose Castillo said.
Salisbury students are not the only ones affected by the decision. Coaches and athletes now have a chance to interact with more members of the public and have a chance to see an increase in attendance at sporting events.
Women’s lacrosse coach Jim Nestor believes tailgating will bring a new element to Salisbury athletics, but, like Dudley-Eshbach, wants it to be executed in a responsible way that represents the university well.
“We need to make sure we’re representing the university in a positive way,” Nestor said. “We need to support us and not be derogatory towards any opponent.”
Along with the news of tailgating, Dudley-Eshbach revealed dates the newly built Sea Gull Stadium would be open, as well as the projected date of the Guerrieri Academic Commons. Both projects are expected to act as more tools to bring the campus and community closer together.
“It’s about community,” Dudley-Eshbach said. “It’s about people coming together.”
With the stadium opening at the end of March, the Academic Commons opening in the summer and tailgating expected to start up next fall, one thing’s for sure, Salisbury’s about to experience many new changes – changes that the president hopes makes the university a better school then it already is.
“We’re excited…we’re really excited,” Dudley-Eshbach said.