Gamedays in Tucson: What to expect

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Heather Newberry | The Daily Wildcat Arizona fans in Zona Zoo cheer on the Wildcats during their game against Chico State on Nov. 5 in McKale Center.

Editor's note: This article was produced as part of the Daily Wildcat's 2018 Campus Guide -- the perfect resource for any incoming Wildcat. Whether you're trying to find important dates, looking for a club to join or are interested in UA history and traditions, we'll be there to help you get through your first semester. Welcome to the University of Arizona!  


For sports fans, nothing brings more excitement than game day. Waking up and knowing your favorite team is scheduled to play brings excitement to the community as they all gather in support. One way fans of all ages unite is through tailgating.

Tailgating before games is a tradition that is practiced every year before sporting events around the country. At the University of Arizona, tailgates are held on the Mall, which is within walking distance of Arizona Stadium. Whether it’s tossing the football around, grilling some food or hanging out with friends and family outside the stadium, UA fans find ways to come together before the Wildcats play under the lights on Saturday.

But what you might not know is that one of the biggest and most attended tailgates of UA athletics happens before game day tailgates. 

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The party starts a day before game day with Bear Down Fridays. Bear Down Friday is a chance for UA fans to celebrate the Wildcats on University Boulevard. The UA cheer and band teams perform, and the celebration ends with a pep rally located on a stage on the corner of Tyndall and University. 

Athletic director Dave Heeke will hype up the crowd, typically alongside a special guest. New head coach Kevin Sumlin may even get in on the fun this year. Bear Down Fridays send everyone home in good spirits that carry over into the next day.

When game day arrives, fans file onto the Mall to get ready for football games. People, food, drinks, even cars fill the area to celebrate before the game starts. Mascots Wilbur and Wilma Wilcat are always out and about, posing for pictures with fans young and old. 

One of the biggest traditions before UA football games is the Wildcat Walk. Football players get dropped off by team buses near the stadium and walk through the buzzing crowds to the stadium entrance. Football players, coaches and the UA cheer team walk through a sea of fans wearing red and blue all the way to the stadium about two hours before kickoff. The Wildcat Walk brings fans close to UA athletes both literally and figuratively.

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An hour before the game is set to start, the doors open to the Arizona Stadium and fans begin to pile in. Made up mostly of studentst rushing to get the best seat in the ZonaZoo.

The bars and restaurants located along University Boulevard act as hot spots for fans to go to before games as well. While tailgating isn’t as big before UA basketball games, fans can be seen all over campus getting ready for the opening kick off. 

For those who weren’t able to get tickets to the game, restaurants such as Illegal Pete’s, No Anchovies, the Frog and Firkin and Gentle Ben’s on University Boulevard are home to hundreds of additional UA fans on game day. 

While the big event that people associate college football season with is tailgating, there’s always a new way for students and fans to cheer on their Arizona Wildcats. 


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