"It's a pretty festive tailgate," admits Tanner Aasheim, one of the group's founders. The group got its start a few years back when Larry Aasheim (Tanner's father) turned over his prime tailgating space to his son and nephew, Erik, with the simple directive to "turn this into a big deal."
It didn't take long. Tanner and Erik held the first of what they jokingly call their "board of directors meetings," then called up all of their buddies to get them involved.
Now they have a core group of about 10-15 fellow MSU alumni, all huge sports fans, who are involved in the group. They took the name "Torley's Tailgaters" in honor of Tanner and Erik's late grandfather, Torlief Aasheim, former director of the Montana Cooperative Extension Service and dean of MSU friends and fans. "Mr. Blue and Gold," as Torlief was known, was synonymous with Bobcat Athletics, and is probably best known for initiating the Aasheim Gate on the west end of Centennial Mall, his efforts to restore the college "M" on Mt. Baldy and proliferation of the omnipresent "Go Cats" buttons, before he died in 2006.
"He was a very passionate guy, and the thing he was most passionate about was MSU," said Tanner, "So in the spirit of him being such a big MSU fan, we decided to call our group 'Torley's Tailgaters.'"
When the EZ Campaign launched, the members of Torley's Tailgaters knew they wanted to contribute to the project, but the campaign Website at the time only recognized gifts of $10,000 and above.
"None of us make a huge amount of money at this young age," Tanner said. "We all wanted to make a contribution to getting the project done, but we knew that individually we really couldn't make the $10,000 threshold." They decided to pool their money, and it only made sense to do it as Torley's Tailgaters and honor "the spirited Bobcat that was so passionate about MSU."
"The name is in honor of what he did for the university," Tanner said. "I think it's cool that a group of 30-somethings can recognize that and pay tribute to him as a big contributor to MSU."
Collectively, Torley's Tailgaters contributed almost $15,000 to the EZ Campaign, and they were nine of the more that 700 donors that helped MSU reach its goal.
"I wouldn't be surprised if this group of people, as we went along, donated to other areas, specifically academics," Tanner Aasheim said.
Larry Aasheim, president of the BQC, said this represents a changing of the guard. He's proud of this next generation of Bobcat boosters.
"(Torley)'s two generations removed from most of those guys and they still remember how much he loved the Bobcats."