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The Art of the Tailgate

Before every University of Arizona football home game, a small city pops up next to the stadium ready to prepare the faithful for kickoff.

Starting six hours before kickoff and continuing until the players come through the tunnel to the sound of pyrotechnics and an ecstatic crowd, tailgating before a University of Arizona football game is serious business. As the lawns around Arizona Stadium fill up with tents, trailers, grills, RVs and what sometimes seems like the contents of some fans’ living rooms, the number of fans - generally decked in red, with moments of blue, but never, never maroon nor gold – multiply. It’s game day and for alumni and the devoted supporters of the Arizona Wildcats, there’s no better place to be than with friends, family and fans tailgating.

Walking around, the fall spectacle is quite a sight. A giant Wildcat helmet to the left, a giant red double-decker bus (imported from England) to the right. Getting a pass to tailgate isn’t easy - 250 passes are available to season-ticket holders and Wildcat Club members, and there’s generally a waiting list - so those lucky enough to get a spot tend to take the responsibility of entertaining the faithful seriously. Talk to the old-school tailgaters and they’ll tell you stories of rescheduled weddings, ducking out of kids’ soccer games, overnight drives and the determination to be at every game.

2018 Arizona Wildcats Football Home Schedule

All games at Arizona Stadium. For tickets, game times, and more information go to

Sept. 1 vs. BYU Cougars  

Sept. 15 vs. Southern Utah Thunderbirds

Sept. 29 vs. USC Trojans

Oct. 6 vs. California (UC Berkeley) (Family Weekend)

Oct. 27 vs. Oregon Ducks (Homecoming)

Nov. 2 vs. Colorado Buffaloes

Nov. 24 vs. Arizona State Sun Devils


For those who drive down from Phoenix or elsewhere in Arizona, trek in from points out of state, or even local fans, the game day experience is a special one. For Tucsonan Jason Ground, it’s an opportunity to connect his own childhood past to his parenting present: “I've been tailgating since age 5. My earliest memory is pretending to be Theopolis "T" Bell trying to elude my dad on the wet grass of the Mall. Now it's my turn to chase my sons and their friends.”

For others, it’s an opportunity to reconnect with former classmates and friends they may not see during the offseason. If you have some connection to the University of Arizona, walk around the lawns for a bit. You’ll likely hear your name called out from under a tent somewhere or see a familiar face in the crowd. Tailgating is about the anticipation ahead of a big game, but it’s also about community. Even if you didn’t come with a large group of friends, the bond of common fandom will likely mean you have a hot dog in one hand and a beverage in the other soon enough.

The Zona Zoo student section goes wild for the Cats at a UofA football game

University of Arizona District

Arizona football welcomes a new head football coach with the 2018-19 season. Kevin Sumlin makes his debut during the September 1 home game against the BYU Cougars. Before becoming a Wildcat, Sumlin was head coach at Texas A&M University and the University of Houston. Expect a packed stadium full of enthusiastic fans ready to cheer on each touchdown or stellar defensive play, especially on November 24 when the Territorial Cup matchup against ASU returns to Tucson. Just as much as the games, however, Wildcat fans will be looking forward to the pre-party.

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