Indiana University’s football season ended Saturday with a loss to Purdue, but the season ended a day later for those who clean up after fans once the crowd has filed out. IU shells out more than $3600 every home football game just to clean up after tailgaters – and it’s not an easy job.
A sea of cream and crimson filling the fields surrounding Memorial Stadium before a home IU football game leads to a sea of plastic cups, glass bottles and a few unmentionables. But drive by the next day and you’ll be none the wiser.
“We go to as much of an extent as we can to try to make the area presentable,” said IU Assistant Athletic Director of Facilities Chuck Crabb. “Like I say, 7 a.m. to noon — noon is our target for when we want to have everything cleaned up– so when people drive along 17th St., the bypass, Dunn St. or Fee Ln. they see a very nice athletic complex following the football game.”
It’s Crabb’s budget that pays the $3600 clean-up costs for each game. But who exactly is the university paying to do all that work?
More often than not, it’s the same three groups, including members of Bloomington High School South’s wrestling team. Joey Todd, a junior at South, has been cleaning up after IU student tailgates for the past six years. Sometimes Todd says he and his friends find money or take home grills and lawn chairs which were left behind, but mostly the teen and his teammates are left to clean up bottles and cans that once contained beverages for 21-and-over consumers.
“We’re finding a bunch of empty cups people leave and bottles of alcohol, empty bottles of alcohol, a bunch of Budweiser cans and all that,” he said.
The boys bag the trash and put everything in dumpsters, leaving more difficult items like broken shards of glass for workers who will rake the field in the next few days. Crabb said the school provides some protection to see the clean-up crew is safe.
“All of the students and the people involved in the cleanup are issued cloth gloves, cotton gloves, and plastic bags. We have plastic gloves that are available also in case they really get into some messy areas.”
The South wrestlers are joined by athletes from Edgewood High School — today it’s the boys basketball team — and a group from Owen County. Each group agrees to provide 40 members apiece for clean up and earns $1200 per game. Crabb said the IU athletics department has been using these three groups almost exclusively for years. But he adds there is some truth to the oft-repeated rumor that post-game clean up is done by students who’ve received under-age drinking tickets – mostly during Little 500 weekend.
“At a fall period of the year there generally is not enough people who have been involved in pre-trial diversion to meet the needs we have numbers wise,” Crabb said. “And we can’t be dependent on the court system meeting that goal and it’s not ours to ask them and ask the police ‘Hey, go out and arrest 120 kids and site them for minor consumption or illegal consumption.’ I mean that’s not what we’re wanting to see as the situation at all.”
Besides, Athletic Events and Venues Coordinator Jim Jarvis said paying non-profit organizations is a good way for IU to give back – and it saves the school money.
“If you had workers do it would cost you more but this really helps people in the community—this is like their fund raiser,” Jarvis said. “South wrestlers use this money to buy their uniforms for the year and pictures and stuff like that. That’s why a lot parents come. It takes a lot of the burden off of them having to come up with the money.”
Edgewood basketball coach Jay Brown said that’s exactly why he’s been bagging bottles for the past 15 years. But on the day WFIU caught up with him, he points out the area isn’t nearly as messy as normal.
“We wouldn’t consider this a heavy day,” Brown said. “It’s amazing how people just leave their stuff laying around.”
All in all, the crews agreed, this year’s cleanups have been significantly lighter than previous years. A change Crabb says is due to new IU tailgating rules that encourage students to start heading to the stadium at least 10 minutes before kick-off—a rule that on this day helps the complex look like new at least 90 minutes before Crabb’s noon goal.