It's been 11 years since the University of Arizona achieved the pinnacle of all college rankings: the No. 1 party school in America, according to Playboy magazine.
But since earning that lofty distinction in 2002 it's been a downward spiral for the UA as a party place. It was missing from Playboy's most recent top-10 list, and hasn't cracked the top 20 in the last three years of rankings from that noted (ahem) party-school evaluator, The Princeton Review.
All that could change, though, considering the attention brought by a recent well-attended—and potentially deadly—party held at an off-campus apartment complex catering to UA students.
Video from the party, which took over the courtyard, pool area and dozens of units at the Stone Avenue Standard complex a mile northwest of campus, has had more than 45,000 views on YouTube since it was uploaded a little more than a week ago.
Clips from the so-called "Aussie Party" have also included a wild incident in the complex's parking lot, where an unidentified person could be seen waving a handgun, with shots fired moments later.
Tucson police don't believe anyone was injured by the shots, which were fired into the air. But by the time they arrived at the complex, most of the roughly 1,500 partygoers had fled.
No arrests were made, though Stone Avenue Standard was issued a red-tag notice, which TPD spokeswoman Sgt. Maria Hawke said means the complex cannot host a communal party for six months.
A few days later, evidence of the Aussie Party could still be seen at the complex. Employees were using power washers to clean the pool decks, and numerous exterior walls had touch-up paint and spackle covering what might have been party-fueled holes.
A big party atmosphere is what drew students like sophomore Tommy Johnson, 20, from New Jersey to the UA in general and Stone Avenue Standard specifically.
"From what I saw last year I was expecting parties here," said Johnson, who lives at the complex and attended the Aussie Party. "But I don't think anyone expected something like this. I definitely enjoyed the party, but not when people started getting crazy. Somebody ripped off my friend, stole his TV right out of his apartment."
Johnson thinks there were close to 2,000 people at the party, which Hawke said was organized by a trio of Australian exchange students who spread fliers around the UA campus and scrawled invitations in chalk on campus sidewalks about the come-one, come-all event. The date of the party, Jan. 26, is known as Aussie Day in Australia.
The Aussies—who on Facebook and YouTube videos go by the names Aussie Blair, Aussie Dave and Aussie Jack—have been identified through a UA student directory search as Blair Limbert, Dave McQueeney and Jack Seymour.
None of the three wished to speak to the Weekly for this story, other than McQueeney saying the gathering was the product of "just a couple of blokes who wanted to have a party."
But the magnitude and organization of the event say otherwise. Besides the word-of-mouth mass invitation approach, the Aussies employed an upstart media company founded by a pair of UA students to film the festivities and upload them to YouTube. They also flew in a pair of DJs from South Carolina and coordinated the acquisition of sophisticated lighting and stage equipment that goes far beyond the typical run-of-the-mill college kegger.
Such parties are becoming more and more common at apartments that bill themselves as student housing, said David Graff, a UA student and aspiring photographer who was hired by Blacked Out Media to shoot stills at the event. Nearly 300 of those pics are on Blacked Out's Facebook page.
"I'd say there's about two to three per semester, on average," said Graff, noting complexes such as Campus Crossings at Starr Pass and The Seasons have annual mass shindigs. "They are a lot of fun. They get a lot of students, and they're probably pretty good for getting people booked into the apartments."
The difference between most of those large-scale events and the one at Stone Avenue Standard, police say, is that many complexes give TPD a heads-up before such a big party. TPD and the Tucson Fire Department then provide guidance on what constitutes a safe crowd and how much security is needed to keep the peace.
"The Standard has had parties there in the past, and told us about them," Hawke said. "They didn't this time."
Hawke said apartment complex employees contacted after the Jan. 26 party said they didn't notify TPD because they didn't want to be forced to spend a certain amount on security and other safeguards. Hawke said the info provided by the police and fire departments consists of suggestions and recommendations, not mandates.
Officials with the Stone Avenue Standard and its property management company, NorthStar Management and Consulting Inc., declined to comment. NorthStar's website lists six "student living" sites among its 38 Tucson-area properties.
By the letter of the law, Stone Avenue Standard and NorthStar didn't commit any crimes by having such a large, out-of-control party. Despite the presence of only six security guards that night and the likely attendance of hundreds of underage drinkers, there was no evidence that Stone Avenue Standard provided the alcohol or that anyone was charged admission to the event.
Even so, such a large party meant that Stone Avenue Standard "opened themselves up to some significant liability if any sort of injury or something happened," Hawke said. Once the red tag expires, the complex can continue to have parties without fear of penalties, or even the need for a liquor license.
The Tucson City Clerk's office said the party didn't need a special-event liquor license because it was essentially a BYOB event. Graff said many people had smaller, in-unit parties where alcohol was plentiful, and much of that circulated into the common areas, adding to the intoxicated atmosphere.
Stone Avenue Standard employees told police they "sanctioned" the party, but did not put any money toward it. Graff said he heard otherwise, with the Aussies paying only about one-third of the costs.
"They did all the legwork and then gave the bill to the apartment complex," Graff said.
Hawke said TPD has no immediate plans to start targeting student-centric complexes with special enforcement details. The department does intend, though, to start communicating with managers of such complexes to let them know what's happened elsewhere. It's something TPD will likely do a lot in the next year, with the impending opening of massive student housing complexes downtown, just outside the UA campus boundaries and along 22nd Street near Park Avenue.
"As always, we will address violations of law or ordinance on a case-by-case basis," Hawke said.
In the meantime, Blacked Out Media appears to be riding the wave of attention it got for filming the Aussie Day party. The company's Facebook page, which notes its service is meant to "film what you won't remember" and to help "make your event look like next-level sh*t," indicates that Blacked Out Media has plans to make several more local party videos. Blacked Out Media's co-founders, who asked that their names not be used in this story (although an elementary social media search links David Lee Orr, class of 2013, to the company), say they're committed to returning the UA to Playboy's roster of top party schools.