LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- What’s a tailgate without alcohol? Some fans at the University of Kentucky’s next football game are about to find out.
UK President Eli Capilouto on Thursday imposed a strict alcohol ban for non-reserved tailgating spots for his school’s game against South Carolina on Saturday night in Lexington. The ban also applies to DJs and bands in that area near Commonwealth Stadium.
Capilouto said in a campus email that his decision was spurred by an outbreak of fighting in that area before and after Kentucky’s loss to Western Kentucky on Sept. 15. He blamed the unruly behavior on “a small number of people” whose actions “seriously threatened the safety of those around them.” He said, “Such behavior will not be tolerated.”
Police presence will be bolstered in the non-reserved tailgate area along Cooper Drive between Sports Center Drive and University Drive, he said. People caught serving or drinking alcohol there will be cited by police and state alcoholic beverage control officials, he warned.
Individuals or student groups promoting drinking or using DJs and bands in that area will face disciplinary action from the school’s dean of students, Capilouto said. For groups, the penalties could ultimately affect their organizational status, he said.
Capilouto said he wants fans to attend the game and said tailgating is “a rite of fall on our campus.”
“We want all of you to tailgate and enjoy each other’s company in a responsible fashion,” he said. “But we will not allow actions and behaviors that threaten the safety of our students, our fans or of officials who are present to protect everyone.”
His message also was sent to UK football ticket holders.
The university won’t say whether the ban will extend beyond the South Carolina game.
“We plan to evaluate following this game to see what measures are working and if they need to continue or if there need to be additional measures taken,” UK spokesman Jay Blanton said.
The Wildcats play at home again on Oct. 6 against Mississippi State.
The grassy area being targeted is generally swarming with people before UK games.
“People will set up a tent, which is fine, but then they’re distributing alcohol in pretty large quantities out of that tent,” Blanton said.
Mix in live music or DJs in the area, and people are staying longer and drinking more, he said.
“This is a stepped-up enforcement to try to address some of these severe issues that we’re seeing only in this one location,” he said.
The Lexington Herald-Leader reported that two men were charged with disorderly conduct and other offenses after a UK police officer was hit in the face after UK lost to Western Kentucky. Several other disturbances were reported, the newspaper said.
UK officials consulted with local and county officials as well as officials from the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control before deciding on the ban in the non-reserved tailgating area.
Kickoff for the South Carolina game is set for 7 p.m. EDT. The late kickoff means tailgaters could spend hours imbibing before the game.
It’s not the first time UK has dealt with unruly fan behavior. The school’s celebration of its national basketball championship this past spring was marred by numerous small fires and gunfire that wounded one man.