-- As football season kicked off this month, a group of high school students have figured out a way to bring ESPN’s famous “College GameDay” to the high school level.
“One of our fears was what happens we leave, is everything in terms of school spirit going to go down,” student council vice president Domenic Aluise, 18, and a senior, told ABC News. “We started brainstorming ideas for school spirit.”
Aluise and the student council president, Blake Middleton, 17, struck upon the idea to turn the high school stadium’s student section, nicknamed “Section E,” into a giant tailgate party before each of the Braden River Pirates’ home games.
“Wanted to make it like a ‘College GameDay’ atmosphere so everyone would see us out there together and we’re behind the team as much as we can,” Middleton said.
“We wanted to have everybody wear white,” he said. “Dom came up with the t-shirt design and we decided we could sell the shirt for $20 and that would come with free food and drink.”
Before the first kick off last month, the pair had to convince their student council advisor, history teacher Dan McLean, and assistant principal, Don French, that they would actually follow through with their plan.
“I thought they were crazy,’ McLean said. “We really thought they were out of their minds but they were very persistent and wouldn’t take no for an answer and after thinking about it and hearing them telling us how great it’d be and boost school spirit and all the positive attention it could bring, we said crazy, but okay.”
Aluise led his fellow engineering students in designing and producing the t-shirts and the whole student council worked with community members on logistics and safety, even recruiting a local church to help provide food for hungry high schoolers.
At the first home game last month, the “Section E” tailgate party kicked off by nearly selling out all 200 t-shirts, which also double as the students’ admission tickets.
A grill malfunction forced an emergency delivery of Papa John’s pizza but the rest of the tailgate went smoothly, including a Pirates’ football win. For this week’s game against a local rival, the students plan to have a hot dog eating contest in addition to the usual music and games like corn hole, football and tetherball.
Even the students’ once-relunctant teacher and assistant principal are in on the game. McLean and French host “The Don and Dan Show” at the tailgate before the game, just like “College GameDay.”
“Don and I have been doing student government together for 10 years and the kids always do a fantastic job but we notice they’ll come up with an out-of-the box idea and lots of times the idea sounds great but the execution isn’t very good,” McLean said. “That’s what made our first reaction be, ‘These guys are nuts.’”
“They stayed on it and we said, ‘Let’s give them a chance,’ and we’re so glad,” he added. “This has really become probably the best thing we’ve ever done.”
The students say they know the tailgate party is a hit because their rivals are copying them already.
“Two schools nearby have started borrowing our ideas with white t-shirts and a tailgate,” Middleton said. “There is no better feeling than being a Braden River Pirate."