It's tradition: Wolfpack's tailgating faithful like to hit the parking lot at halftime

jstancill@newsobserver.comSeptember 6, 2013 

— OK, Wolfpack nation, you are on notice.

This weekend at Carter-Finley Stadium, steamy weather shouldn’t be an excuse for an exodus from the stands at halftime or sparse bleachers in the third quarter.

When N.C. State’s football team meets the University of Richmond Spiders Saturday at 6 p.m., the temperature is expected to be a delightful 75 degrees.

So will fans stay close to their seats at halftime, or spill out into the parking lot for a cold one?

We all know the answer to that one.

After last week’s game, Coach Dave Doeren sent out a plea for fans to be in their seats at the start of the third quarter and to stay put through the end of the game. “That’s something we need if the program is going to grow the way everybody wants it to,” the coach said.

But some Wolfpack faithful howled. After all, the tailgating ritual at NCSU has been there a lot longer than Doeren, who just arrived at State from Northern Illinois.

And besides, one fan said, last week’s game was “hotter than 40 hells.”

Some fled the stands for the shade of the concourse at halftime. Some escaped to their cars and turned on the AC. And some ventured out for the usual beverage and never went back.

Longtime fan and season ticket holder Greg Sakas, a property manager from Raleigh, thinks Doeren had a point.

“It’s hard not to notice when 15,000 people are missing,” said Sakas, who won’t leave the stadium at halftime.

“He’s a new coach and he’s young and they’re trying to do great things here,” Sakas added. “He wants people to support (them). It would be like you having a party and sending out invitations to everybody you know. You’re thinking you’re throwing a pretty good party. Then you look up halfway through the party and two-thirds of the people you had invited had left. I mean, that’s never good.”

Sakas likes to tailgate as much as the next fan. He sets up two hours before the games, plays cornhole and hangs out in the parking lot to hear the postgame show on the radio. But he won’t leave the stadium until the last down is done.

“I’m a sportsaholic too, and I’m afraid I’m going to miss something,” he said.

But “pass-outs,” the passes that give fans license to leave at halftime and return – whenever – are a time-honored tradition at N.C. State. Duke and Wake Forest universities also allow fans to come and go. Most universities, like UNC-Chapel Hill, won’t let people back into a game once they leave.

Apparently the pass-out policy will remain intact at NCSU. Athletic Director Debbie Yow said Doeren didn’t ask her to change it.

Most chalk up last week’s fan disappearing act to the scorching temperatures and the weak opponent. The Wolfpack led Louisiana Tech 24-7 at the half and won the game 40-14.

Gene Polhemus, a retired airline pilot from Raleigh, left the game at halftime and at least found a breeze in the parking lot. The 12:30 p.m. kickoff meant fans broiled in the sun for hours. It was miserable, he said.

‘We do tailgate’

Polhemus had a message for the coach: “You’re ahead. You’re winning. We do tailgate down here a lot.”

Robert Bivens, an engineer from Raleigh, has held season tickets with his college buddies since he graduated from NCSU in 1993. There are usually 30 people at the group’s tailgate.

The set up is a major production, complete with satellite TV, a flat screen and a cooker that can hold three pigs, he said. They run the music and TV on a marine battery. One guy does the cooking. Another does the shopping. Menu planning happens by email each week before a home game.

They arrive sometimes five hours before a game.

Last week, he said, the tailgate included beer, pork tenderloin, biscuits and dirty rice. Several in his group didn’t return to the game after the break.

Bivens remembers that former Coach Tom O’Brien grumbled about the halftime revelry.

Doeren, Bivens said, might have spoken too soon.

“I thought it was a little bit surprising, though, considering it was his first ever game and it’s kind of a small data set to make an opinion on,” Bivens said. “But I guess we have been notorious for being a little slack on coming in to the second half. We probably did deserve a wake-up call.”

Sakas said he plans to arrive in the parking lot at 3:30 p.m. Saturday, plenty of time to socialize and have a beer. Last weekend, his group had BBQ, slaw and deviled eggs. He’s thinking fried chicken this Saturday.

That gave him an idea to keep his Wolfpack friends in the stands at halftime.

“You can put a couple of drumsticks and wings in your pockets,” he said. “You’re set. They’re usually frisking you for booze. I ain’t had them take a chicken leg out of my pocket yet.”

Stancill: 919-491-8213

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