College Football Fever in America

Excitement fills the air as millions of college football fans welcome the first days of fall and the beginning of Saturday football games. The passion for college football, which began in the late 1800’s, is now widespread across America among enthusiastic students, parents, alumni, and visitors. An estimated 49 million spectators filled NCAA stadiums in 2012 to watch their favorite teams play at home and away, another two million attended collegiate bowl games, and record numbers went to conference championship games, the Final Four, and the BCS Championship, the biggest event of the college football season. Although television and radio bring football to viewers, there is nothing like traveling to enjoy the pre-game festivities, eagerly watching the clock tick down the final minutes to kickoff, and being in the stands along with other cheering fans.

Towns and cities welcome football fans from out of town and the money they spend on tickets and accommodations, at restaurants and retail establishments. Many travel a great distance to follow their teams all the way to a championship and the chance to play in one of the big Bowl games. Numerous travel agencies offer advance ticket purchases online and all-inclusive football packages to fit every budget. College football fans may want to check out travel packages to the Rose Bowl game on New Year’s Day, or the BCS National Championship on January 6, 2014. Premiere Sports Travel has standard and deluxe packages which include three nights’ accommodations at a top-rated hotel, end zone tickets, transfers, and other extras.
Prices: $1155 to $1585.
(Note: Enter the American Airlines Sweepstakes, sponsored by American Way magazine for a chance to win a travel package to the SEC game in Atlanta. Contest ends 31 Oct.)

Vendors gain from the sale of food, drink, and souvenirs on game day, as well as memorabilia which football fans purchase year round. Employment opportunities for ticket takers, concession stand operators, parking and gate attendants, maintenance and construction workers, and many other service industry jobs are plentiful during football season.

Two of the largest universities for college football fans are Ohio State (OSU) in Columbus and the University of Texas (UT) in Austin, although many others are just as popular and well known among sports fans. Both cities are serious about their football team and go all out when football season is about to begin. From the burnt orange and white of Texas to the scarlet and grey of Ohio, people everywhere wear their team’s colors and put signs and flyers on vehicles and storefronts throughout town. The highlight of UT’s football season is the Thanksgiving Day game vs Texas A&M, preceded by the Hex Rally on the Monday before Thanksgiving and the Torchlight Parade the night before. The stadium rocks with “The Eyes of Texas,” while the celebrated arrival of Bevo the 14th generation Longhorn steer delights the fans.
Avg Ticket Prices Regular Season Games – $98, End Zone – $105. End Zone – $105

The entire town of Columbus comes alive in college football season with a whole calendar of events to celebrate the scarlet and gray traditions of the Ohio State Buckeyes. In addition to O-H-I-O cheers, dotting the “I” in script Ohio, and victory bells, the largest all-brass and percussion marching band in the world is the main attraction. Known as TBDBITL,“the best damn band in the world,” the band performs before and during every OSU game, while a student in costume and wearing the face of a Buckeye captivates the audience. Students in Block O entertain the fans by singing “Hang on Sloopy” at the end of the 3rd quarter.
Tickets for regular games begin at $79 for the general public and go up to $900+ for the best seats. Students – Reserved Full Season Package, $252

Tailgating is a popular American tradition of bringing food on wheels going back to the days of the chuckwagon in the Old West providing food to cowboys on the open range. Today’s modern concept of tailgating is bringing food on a vehicle to a parking space for a group of people to party at a sports event – college football in this case. A few people may say they enjoy tailgating as much as watching the game, but they’re probably not die-hard football fans. Tailgating is a place to have fun, share good food and drink, and enjoy the camaraderie among family and friends.

At the University of Texas, tailgating usually means beer and barbeque, but some bring wine and fancy hors d’oeuvres. Groups of students, fans, and visitors wearing team colors arrive in trucks, cars, and RVs displaying Hook ‘Em Horns signs and stickers, and the occasional set of Longhorn cattle horns over the front bumper. Vehicles are loaded with ice chests, outdoor grills and smokers, tents and canopies, lawn chairs, and lots of food. Tailgating spaces are open from 7am on game day to 6pm the day after, but fill up fast. Each of the 92 spaces at Centennial Park are 30′ x 30′ and can be reserved for $55/per game or $300/season. If you don’t want to bring your own tailgate setup, these are available for rent and include everything but food and beverages. Top of the line setup includes two TVs with Dish. Prices from $500-$1100.

Ohio State tailgating is huge, with three lots forming a horseshow around the stadium. Lots open six hours before game time, and early morning fans often stop at Tim Horton’s or Buckeye Donuts on their way to the stadium for a quick breakfast to go. Most tailgaters bring their own food and drinks, but some buy prepared meal packages from City BBQ or other restaurants in Columbus.
Parking space for vehicles no larger than 8½’ x15′ – $15. Larger vehicles – RV pass or parking at the Ohio Fairgrounds. – $105. Extra $$ for Brutus Buckeye to make an appearance at the tailgate party.

(Note: Prices vary considerably depending on where and when you buy them. The schools’ official websites are a good source for seating charts, ticket prices, football schedule, and other details.)

The success of college football through the years is extraordinary if you consider a sluggish economy and world problems dominating the news. Yet, millions of loyal fans seek the entertainment and pleasure college football provides each year. Football season is a definite morale booster for students who may be overwhelmed by the academic requirements, and having fun while learning is a sometime thing. It may well be as important as Vince Lombardi once said “A school without football is in danger of deteriorating into a medieval study hall.” The future of college football looks bright as long as money continues to flow, new facilities are built, hometown heroes become national football stars, and dedicated fans eagerly await opening day.

Sharon L Slayton

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