Like many readers of this site are destined to do, I spent five years as an undergraduate. This is in part because I changed majors three times and finished my pledge semester with nine credits, but mostly because I had too much damn fun. I may have gotten B’s and C’s in class, but I always brought my A-game to the party. While I loved dollar Wednesdays, thirsty Thursdays and beer darts on Friday, my favorite party was always Saturday tailgate.
When I graduated and got forced into corporate hell, I was miserable. I needed a release from the monotony of team meetings, conference calls and Excel spreadsheets. I thought about how much I loved tailgating and college football, so I set out to visit as many schools as I could. This fall, I attended games at the University of Kansas, Oregon, South Carolina, The Citadel, Clemson, Tennessee, Baylor, Stanford and Arizona State. You can read about all these visits and more on my website, but I wanted to share the highlights of each school in a “Best Of” list. I’m sure some of you will disagree with my assessments, so feel free to shit all over me. I deserve it. And if I didn’t visit your school, convince me I should bother doing so in a future trip.
Best Tailgating – University of South Carolina
The highlight of many college football games is the tailgate, and the best tailgaters in the world live in the Southeast. On-campus stadiums are great, but they often limit the amount of real estate for BBQs and beer bongs. USC’s Williams-Brice Stadium is not on campus, but instead next to the South Carolina State Fairgrounds. This slice of heaven has the space to host tens of thousands of alcohol enthusiasts, not to mention more RVs and trailers than an F5 tornado could dismantle. Garnet and black are the colors of the day, and they’re painted everywhere, from tents and trucks to tits and tablecloths. Which brings up a good point: it’s easy to not look fucktarded at a tailgate. Guys, khaki shorts and your team polo are easy and stylish, and girls will get ogled all day in cowboy boots and school-color dresses. Beer and BBQ are available everywhere, but it’s the gorgeous Gamecock girls that give USC the edge.
Best Pregame Tradition – Clemson
They call it the “Most Exciting 25 Seconds in College Football,” I call it the best introduction in sports. LeBron has his baby powder gag, the Miami Hurricanes have the smoke tunnel, but no entrance can touch Clemson’s. Minutes before the game, the whole team gathers atop a grass hill in one end zone of the stadium. Each player takes his turn rubbing Howard’s Rock (don’t be a perv), and then several tons of breathtaking athleticism and overweight coach blubber rumble down the hill and onto the field. Fans go wild and girls throw their thongs from the bleachers (in my head they do). Thousands of orange balloons rise from Clemson Memorial Stadium along with the voices of 83,000 football addicts who have descended into Death Valley. You can understand why Clemson is in the midst of a record home winning streak.
Best Stadium – University of Oregon
This will probably anger some of you SEC snobs, but the best stadium I visited this year was Autzen Stadium at the University of Oregon. Capacity is only 54,000, but the Duck faithful have bought every ticket to every game since 1999. They average about 59,000 fans for each game. For the Mississippi State fans who struggle with math, that’s 5000 more than advertised capacity. Inside, it feels more like a baseball stadium because the seats rise up much higher behind the away team’s sideline, kind of like seats behind home plate compared to the outfield. Sit high enough on this side, and you can see the peaks of the mountains that surround Eugene, OR. Oh, and it is LOUD in there. The crowd noise measured at 127 decibels at a game against USC in 2007. A columnist from University of Michigan wrote that the noise there is greater than Michigan’s Big House, The Horseshoe at Ohio State, Florida’s Swamp, and LSU’s Death Valley. Suck on that, SEC fans.
Best Restaurant – Baylor University
Depending on kick-off time, I try to visit a favorite local restaurant either before or after the game. After leaving the Baylor-Kansas game during the rain delay, I headed to George’s. Fans of Pat Green may know this place from his song “George’s Bar.” This outfit has existed in one form or another since 1930. It’s pretty much always shit-packed, but the televisions on every wall make the wait bearable. Once seated, I ordered the Crazy Wings: a wad of chicken, jack cheese and jalapeno, blanketed in bacon and fried until they’re @Dadboner approved. Grab a Margarit-O (a frozen marg with a Dos Equis turned upside down in the glass) and you’ve got a damn fine dinner. You may or may not also have a date with the porcelain princess in the morning.
Best Atmosphere – University of Tennessee
Maybe because it was a night game, maybe because Neyland Stadium holds 102,000, or maybe because Alabama was in town, but my day in Knoxville showed me that Tennessee has the best gameday atmosphere. The weekend kicked off on Friday night with a free Dierks Bentley concert at World’s Fair Park, a couple blocks from the stadium. Why doesn’t every school invite a country music superstar to perform the night before gameday? Even though kickoff was 8:00pm, tailgates were erected at dawn. Ours happened to be just down the street from the Pike house of “butt-chugging” fame. What made this day special was the significance of the game. Every third Saturday in October is the UT-Alabama game, and although Tennessee hasn’t won much recently, it feels like a championship match-up. Countless Alabama fans had made the trip, some of them by boat, where they tied up next to the Vol Navy. Neyland Stadium is on the banks of the Tennessee River, giving nautical fans the chance to tailgate on their bass boats, pontoons, yachts and canoes. Throw in a little Vol Walk, Peyton Manning’s attendance, some Herbstreit and Musburger, 100,000+ fans, and it’s clear UT has the greatest all-around gameday atmosphere.
Best Bar – University of Kansas
Full disclosure, I’m a Jayhawk, so this may be a homer pick, but The Wagon Wheel in Lawrence, KS is the best college bar at which I’ve ever pissed in a sink. This dive has been unchanged since 1955. I know kids whose grandparents first fornicated after getting boozed up together at The Wheel. The booths are wooden, as well as the walls, bar, and columns that somehow keep the roof from caving in. Bring a Sharpie and leave your legacy. They always have beer and whiskey on special. The patio space out back is ample, and when Kansas makes it, they project Final Four games onto the wall outside. It’s my favorite watering hole, but just across the street is The Hawk. You might remember it as the place where a couple kids decided their passions couldn’t be delayed, so they boned in the Boom Boom Room. My friend has a photo of a similar act taking place in a Boom Boom Room bathroom stall, because believe it or not, some KU kids have class. If you strike out at The Hawk, walk back to The Wheel and get a hot slice of pizza to replicate the warmth of a stranger’s body.
Biggest Disappointment – Arizona State University
My most recent college visit was also one of the most disappointing. The internet led me to believe that ASU was the picture of debauchery, where Tempe 12 girls are ripe for the picking and my above-average raging abilities were considered mild. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The Mill Avenue bars are seriously strict on legal identification, keeping half of their 75,000 students out in the cold desert night. Those that do get in are not the Southern Cal hotties I expected, but instead West Coast douchebags who’ve clearly spent more time in tattoo parlors than class. Did you know Arizona has more smokers than any other state? Not per capita. Total. Also, girls there have figured out how to pierce themselves everywhere, including hips, chests and back dimples. I attended a football game during my stay, but no students did. The stadium was half-full and the tailgating was even worse. I could find literally ZERO students drinking outside the stadium before the game. Their party school reputation is vastly exaggerated. Maybe I would think better of the Sun Devils if I had met favorite TFM Sweetheart Taylor Chatley.