COLUMBIA — At halftime of any Missouri football game, the Memorial Stadium parking lot is full. We're not talking about a car in every space. It's full of people, fans who ducked out of the stadium during the break between the second and third quarters.
The scene resembles the sea of people that can be found in the parking lot before the game starts. It's full of fans who are picking up where they left off — grabbing a bite to eat, drinking a few more beers or tossing the football around — before their tailgate was interrupted by a college football game.
This practice, as popular as it is, looks to be coming to an end.
Among the changes coming with Missouri's move to the Southeastern Conference is a conference-wide football policy that prohibits fans from leaving and re-entering the game. It would change Missouri's current policy that permits the practice at Memorial Stadium.
According to an email from SEC spokesman Charles Bloom, the SEC policy on stadium re-entry states, “Once admitted to the stadium, no ticket holder shall be permitted to leave and re-enter the facility on that ticket. In the event of inclement weather, home team game management shall have the authority to waive this policy.”
The policy was put in place in 2001, according to Bloom, after Arkansas and South Carolina joined the conference in 1991. No school has become a member since then, but that will change when Missouri and Texas A&M officially become members July 1.
Missouri spokesman Chad Moller said via email that the MU Athletics Department is “aware of the policy,” but that it hasn’t been discussed yet.
Especially for fans whose tailgates are near the stadium exits, heading out at halftime has become a routine. Some fans said they are looking to eat some of their own food rather than spend money on food inside the stadium, and others go outside to talk on their cellphones.
Another group of fans have to head outside the stadium walls in order to smoke. Many of the fans outside during halftime of Missouri's 17-5 win over Texas on Saturday were smoking, something that is prohibited inside Memorial Stadium.
The Missouri re-entry policy currently reads, “To re-enter the stadium, fans must have their ticket scanned out when they exit the stadium. … A valid ticket scan is required for re-admission.”
Most SEC schools alert fans of the policy on their websites, instructing fans to bring everything they need with them into the stadium and what to do in case of medical or weather emergencies.
What would need to happen for this policy to change?
“In order for this policy not to be in effect for SEC contests, the athletics directors must vote to overturn it,” Bloom said via email. He said that to his knowledge there haven’t been any discussions to strike down the policy.
Todd McCubbin, executive director of the Mizzou Alumni Association, said he has only heard from a couple of alumni regarding the issue. He said the way other schools' fans have handled the policy bodes well for Missouri fans.
"I can see where it will be an adjustment," McCubbin said via email, "but the SEC schools have large fan bases, and it isn’t an issue for them."
Saturday, several fans said they thought the change would affect many others, but said that they won't be too upset by it personally.
For one fan, the policy change would be a small price to pay for seeing his school join a new conference.
"I think it will throw some people off," MU senior Ian Miller said, "but mostly people are happy to be in the SEC."