By Erin Laytham Lentz
The southern way is steeped in traditions and pride. It is often referred to as “a way of life.” The most notable are the signature wide porches, sweet tea, bourbon and fall oyster roasts. College sports, particularly football, occupy a role at the center of daily life in the South. This is especially true if you grew up in South Carolina. Driving America’s football obsession are some areas boasting a high concentration of fans. Alabama leads the way and are joined by Mississippi, South Carolina, Kentucky, Louisiana, Arkansas and Oklahoma. Some even say college football is just better in the South. Even in the states where there are NFL teams, college football reigns supreme. Why is it so revered?? The intensity of the fans stems from the southeastern conference; a 76 year old coalition of 12 universities in nine southern states. The games deliver wild and exciting entertainment and often hours of preliminary tailgating, a social occasion and long held tradition. Tailgating is about supporting your team, but also about eating and drinking with kindred spirits. Game day grub consists of favorite southern beverages, as well as treats such as bbq ribs, buffalo wings, sandwiches, and of course, beer. Clemson and University of Georgia top the list of the best colleges for tailgating according to Southern Living Magazine.
The intertwining of college football and southern culture is most obvious on game day. When a big game is scheduled everything stops in the south and fans flock to stadiums to the best place to spectate-the bleachers. These passionate fans extend their love through alumni donations, season ticket and apparel purchases. Adorned in face paint, team colors and an unmeasured enthusiasm they show their allegiance to their team. It so deeply permeates the culture that it is not uncommon to see evidence of homes divided in their team loyalties. From screaming fans to memorable signs be sure to wake up early so not to miss the show. There is nothing that compares to the energy of attending a game but many choose to watch from the comfort of their homes or their favorite, local sports bar. Local favorite spots such as Casey’s Bar & Grill, British Open Pub and Reilly’s are great spots to enjoy game day.
To reverse the trend of popularity, other conferences would have to acquire better players. The south has the highest paid coaches and the best players. In the south college football isn’t merely a tradition, a religion or wonderment. It is all of those things in one and unites the entire region. The 2017 season began the weekend of September 2nd with 14 games. The schedule included two games on non-traditional days with Tennessee playing Georgia Tech and Ole Miss visiting Mississippi State on Thursday, November 23rd. It will mark the first year to play the Ole Miss-Mississippi State game on Thanksgiving night. The season will end with the first SEC Championship game played in the new Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta on Sat., December 2nd.