Going to a college football game is just one of the many experiences associated with going to college. If your only football experience is the typical high school football match-ups, you should realize that the college football experience isn’t exactly the same. Sure, the basic concept of supporting your home team doesn’t change, but there is more to a college football game than cheering after every touchdown, pass or interception. Bring your enthusiasm and college team gear and get ready for a day of fun and team spirit.
The biggest difference between a high school football game and a college football game is the pre-game activities in the parking lot. Most high schools do not have organized tailgating activities. On the other hand, most college games unofficially start hours before kickoff with well-organized parking lot activities.
The most cherished of these activities is the vast amounts of food being prepared as the players go over the playbook one last time. The exact type of food varies by college and region of the country, but generally you will find burgers, hot dogs, chicken, wings, corn on the cob and a variety of local favorites among the culinary delights ready for consumption.
Some colleges have a long history of tailgating parties starting early game day morning and continuing right through the actual game. Tailgating at a college game always draws a crowd. Some of these crowds range in the thousands, especially on game day. At Penn State, the population of the State College, Pennsylvania more than doubles on most game days just from the sheer volume of fans.
The biggest tradition for most college games is wearing team colors. This may have been a part of high school games, but if you go to a college game it is almost a requirement to wear some form of the team colors. Another common college football tradition involves the mascot. This is usually not just somebody in a mascot costume. Sometimes it is an actual animal.
Sometimes, traditions involve the cheerleaders saying a certain cheer or even the band performing in a certain way. When Ohio State’s marching band takes the field to spell out “Ohio,” in cursive no less, it is considered an honor to be the dot on the “I” after the word is spelled out. Before each Colorado University home game, it is a tradition for select students to run Ralphie the buffalo (some guy in a buffalo costume) around the field.
At Clemson University in South Carolina, students rub Howard’s Rock, named for a former coach, for good luck before the start of each home game. The bigger the school, the more elaborate the traditions tend to be, from the marching in formation before the Army-Navy game to the elite Irish color guard in authentic Scottish kilts before Notre Dame’s games.
Instead of cheering for individual players, the focus among the crowd at a college game is the team as a whole. The one exception to this rule is the quarterback. Just like in high school, the QB gets plenty of love from the home team fans. However, the general atmosphere is more team-centered than high school games. Most fans at a high school game tend to be family members of the team players.
At a college game, the mix of the crowd is different. The crowd is mostly made up of students, with faculty and alumni members sprinkled here and there throughout the masses. Some schools have specific cheering traditions, with others just doing some variation of the wave. You will likely see a team mascot encouraging the crowd for the duration of the game.
Be prepared to leave the game with a sore throat from the struggle to be heard among a crowd of thousands. In high school, game day is a regular weekly gathering of the faithful. In college, it is an event.
Nancy Zimmer writes for TicketLiquidator.com, a website dedicated to helping event-goers find the best college football games.
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