At 2:35 pm on Saturday, October 12, 2013, I received four text messages within a thirty second span.
“You did it.”
“Holy shit, I don’t believe it.”
“Congrats bro, I know this is big for y’all.”
Without any context, you’d probably assume that they were congratulating me about something that I’d accomplished. Nope. In reality, I had done nothing. They were congratulating me because my school had finally beat their rival, and I was, for some reason, an important contributor in the victory. I’m not complaining. I think it’s awesome. In fact, I don’t think any other kind of text in that situation would have sufficed.
Is there anything better than college football? That’s a rhetorical question. The answer is, obviously, “No, nothing is better than college football.” We plan our entire fall semester around football events. Formals and house parties are pushed to bye weeks. Dates are invited to big rivalry games out of town. Tailgates are important expenditures because they define the worthiness of each fraternity. So, what if I told you that some colleges don’t have football teams, and worse, people attend them?
My freshman year, I actually fell into this category. Instead of enrolling at the University of South Carolina, I opted to live in a small beach town in southeastern North Carolina. My school, UNC Wilmington, was the “premier coastal university” of the state, and thrived off of students living the “beach lifestyle.” Life on campus at UNCW was very similar to every other college. It had a very prominent Greek life, an abundance of beautiful girls, great beach bars (RedDawgs), and it was all made better with the ocean. For some, UNCW represented the pinnacle of college life. Easy classes, a beautiful campus nestled under towering willow oaks, and weekends at the beach were all major selling points for the university. Its one fault was the reason some of us opted to transfer: the school had no interest in investing in college football. When Saturday afternoon rolled around at UNCW, I was miserable.
I had grown up my entire life as a Texas Longhorn. I’ve attended games in Austin from a very young age and into early adulthood. I witnessed Vince Young step on USC’s throat in the 2005 national championship, I saw Case McCoy pick apart Texas A&M in a game that left hundreds of inbred Aggies in shock. I’ve even run around the state fair snapping pictures of dejected Sooners in tears after losing to Texas in the biggest rivalry game of the year.
Your school doesn’t even have to be good at football for it to be fun. When my dad was a college student at the University of Virginia in the early ’80s, his team lost almost every game for two straight years. When they finally took a serious lead into the fourth quarter his junior year, the fans were irate — throwing garbage on the field, booing their own team after every score, it was a hilarious mess.
“If we are going to be bad, then, damn it, we are going to be the worst.”
So in the spring of my freshman year, I decided that transferring to a school with a football team was the only way of escaping a life of irrelevance. I sent applications to UNC, NC State, and the University of Texas, before eventually enrolling the following fall semester as a Longhorn.
The point in all of this being that having a football team is absolutely essential to the college experience. Not only because it is fun while you’re enrolled, but because it helps maintain a relationship with the school after graduation. It’s a way for you and your college friends to reconvene at the house every fall and get drunk while talking about the good ole days. It’s a way for you to prove to your future children that, despite what they might think, you will forever be cooler than them. It’s a way for you to invest in something bigger than yourself at the off chance that you can reap in the benefits of being a champion. It’s about establishing your pride. In reality, you are not contributing anything, but in your head, you’re apart of something big.
For those of you going to schools that don’t have a football team, I feel sorry for you. When you graduate, that’s it. There aren’t very many events where you can go back to visit your school without a football season. Maybe a homecoming basketball game? Eh, the awkwardness of participating in that kind of egregious ceremony makes me cringe. Sure, your college might have a cool location or a tighter alumni base for which you scrounge for jobs, but the experience of having a football team is incomparable. There is nothing like watching your school wreck another on a Saturday afternoon. It’s a legal high. It’s euphoric. Skipping out on such an unbelievably fun experience just doesn’t make sense.