A girl from the North where NFL is king, I was always confused about the obsession with college football before I moved to Georgia. When I got to UGA, I realized, college football is more important than…well…everything.
Football is as close to a religious service as you can get without stepping foot inside a church. Here are some of the ways football in the South is different from football in the North.
As a freshman at UGA, I was surprised to be banished from my assigned parking lot the Friday night before the first home game to make room for football parking. I had noticed RVs and cars rolling in all evening. There were even tents for tailgates popping up all over campus. This was my first indication that football and tailgating were more important than me being able to park my car on campus.
I took a look at the official policy on parking for UGA games, and I found out that 43 of the UGA parking lots MUST be vacated be Friday night to make room for football parking. Lots open at 7 a.m. on Saturday for football attendees to park. Permits are $20 per game.
I then checked out THE Ohio State University’s parking policy. It seems that vehicles can begin pulling in at 5 a.m. the Saturday of a game, but I didn’t see any lots that were kicking students out on Friday night, and parking permits are $15 per game. As big of a deal as football is to Ohio State fans, parking seems to be a problem for the out-of-towners to solve, not the students on campus.
I’ve gotten to attend a couple of Pitt bowl games, and what did I wear? Well, it was cold so I put on jeans, boots, a Pitt-colored T-shirt, and a jacket, which made it so that no one could actually see my team spirit.
At UGA, football games are like church services. After wearing a red t-shirt and white shorts to my first home game, I realized the error of my ways; UGA girls must wear dresses.
When its 99 degrees in Sanford, you wear a dress; when it’s 50 degrees and raining in Sanford, you wear a dress, and maybe a red or black jacket. You can throw on a pair of tights or leggings, but most girls still wear strapless dresses with bare legs. After all, a Saturday in Sanford is the most important day of the week.
I wanted to make sure I wasn’t crazy, so I did a little investigating. I have a friend who attended the University of Pittsburgh, and on her Facebook, there are pictures of girls tailgating in jeans…JEANS! After surveying some other friends who attend northern colleges, it seems like t-shirts, jerseys, and jeans are the normal attire for games.
So, there is some special attire for games, but nothing too fancy. In the North, you won’t find many people forfeiting comfort for football.
The South is home to some of the best tailgating in the nation. Everyone who gets to play Ole Miss on its home turf knows that. The Grove is known to be one of the best and most organized tailgating zones in the nation and has been recognized by Tailgater Monthly and on the cover of Parade magazine. I saw a blog post that put it this way, “Ole Miss Tailgating: Might not always win the game, but will always win the party.”
That’s not to say that pregame celebrations aren’t awesome at other SEC schools. Perhaps other than the death of three Uga bulldogs during my time at Georgia, there was no bigger outrage than the outlawing of tailgating on UGA’s historic North Campus. Not that students and alumni stopped partying; other parts of campus just became more crowded and elaborate.
Northern schools can’t compete. When I questioned my dad about the tailgating scene at Pitt, he didn’t give me spoken response; instead, he grimaced and shook his head. Granted, my dad went to school at Pitt in the 80s, but I checked out a tailgating guide for Syracuse, and it yielded similar results—tailgates that are small, spread out, or vendor-sponsored. The general feeling of tailgating in the North is underwhelming.
When you go to Sanford Stadium, you'd better be prepared. I’m not joking here; you really have to know when to sit, when to stand, when to hold your hands in the air, the right words to say, and when to say them. A UGA game is stricter than a Catholic Church service; I’ve been to both.
At UGA, they start instilling these sacred cheers in your brain before you ever start a day of class. I actually know a toddler who could say “Go Dawgs!” before he could form full sentences. During my student orientation in the summer of 2008, I remember the embarrassment I felt as I was forced to learn and perform (hand motions and all) the “GOOOOO DAWGS! SIC ‘EM! WOOF WOOF WOOF” chant in front of every single parent.
Of course, that embarrassment didn’t exist inside Sanford Stadium where over 92,000 other Georgia fans are screaming the chant at every kick and punt.
But Georgia isn’t the only school in the South laying down its pride to cheer no matter how ridiculous it sounds doing it. Ole Miss has its “Hot Toddys”, all LSU opponents are “Tiger Bait”, and Florida Gators have their silly Gator Chomp. Even "saints" like Tim Tebow can't help but break out the Chomp to taunt opposing teams.
By the way, he got penalized for that.
The best thing in the north I could find that wasn’t simply “Go Huskies” or something along those lines was Ohio State spelling its name out.
Michigan might be the program with the most wins in history, but no one can deny the powerhouse that is the SEC. The SEC has the most BCS Championships of any conference, with eight. Alabama, LSU, and Florida all have two BCS titles, while Ohio State is really the only Northern team with any. The Buckeyes have been to the big game three times but have only come out victorious once.
I’m not just saying being in the South makes you a winner. As Georgia alum, I’ve seen my share of disappointing seasons. But another part of the importance of football in the South is the attitude when your team isn’t winning.
It’s obnoxious when you hear Georgia or Florida fans coming off a terrible season talk about how the team has all the right players, but they’re just not playing to their potential. The thing is, it doesn’t matter. When you suck, you suck. But Southern fans love their teams win or lose; in their minds, their team is always number one (or at least they could be if they fire that pesky offensive coordinator!)