So you’re interested in becoming a college football ‘Game Traveler’, huh? My advice…do it!
I made it a reality for myself in 2017 and it quickly became one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. How do you get started? I’ve put together a list of frequently asked questions on how I operate, which hopefully, will provide you with the necessary guidance to make it happen:
How much planning goes into creating your season schedule?
A lot. Scheduling is the most important aspect of being a game traveler (along with financial capacity, obviously). The regular season is only 13 weeks, so you want to maximize each weekend trip and be as efficient as possible.
When do you start planning for a new season?
Right after the prior year’s National Championship game is played. No concrete decisions can be made, but you can start working on the framework. The Big Ten, Big 12, SEC and some independent schools (Notre Dame, BYU) usually have next season’s schedule available even before their current year is finished. The remainder of the conferences release schedules for their upcoming season between mid-January and mid-March.
What time of year is your schedule considered “finalized”?
Around Aug. 1. Even then however, it’s not “final” because of the limitations of the system in place. After all conferences have released their new schedules, the networks begin to pick the games they want to broadcast. Some games which were originally scheduled for Saturday are moved to a weeknight to increase exposure.
Also, the kickoff times for only the first three weeks are announced between May and June. For the rest of the season, there is a 12-day rule, allowing networks to wait until less than two weeks before the game to determine their start times. As a result, your schedule will have to remain fluid throughout the season.
How many total games do you attend in one season?
In 2017, I went to 18 games. In 2018, it was 40. Last year, I ended up going to 60. Here’s what the final version of my 2019 schedule looked like:
Honestly, I think I could go even higher in 2020. I didn’t hit the bowl season very hard. I’m not a huge fan of neutral-site games and there were also missed opportunities in seeing two games on a Saturday. For example, if there’s a noon ET kickoff in Ann Arbor to see Michigan and a 7 p.m. start in East Lansing for Michigan State, you can see both in one day. Even though 60 is a ton of games, there is still room for more.
How many “new” stadiums will you hit in 2020?
Now that I have been to a game in 88 of 130 FBS stadiums, scheduling is more difficult. In the beginning, every stadium is new, so you start piling up numbers. Towards the end however, you are really at the mercy of the schedule. Here are the 42 schools I have remaining:
What makes things most challenging is certain conferences only play on Saturdays. The SEC is almost always on Saturday. The Big Ten, Big 12 and Conference USA are almost always on Saturday as well. With only 13 Saturdays in a season, it’s tough to put a dent in those conferences and cross these schools off your list.
If no changes occurred between now and the start of the season, I’m scheduled to attend games at 27 new stadiums. Once the networks start moving games to weeknights, I could possibly add a couple more. For example, Temple is hosting SMU during Week 10. Right now it’s listed as either being on Nov. 5 (Thursday) or Nov. 7 (Saturday). When I asked Temple’s twitter account when a decision would be made, here’s what I was told:
If the game ends up on Thursday, then I can add Temple and my total will be 28. If not, I’ll need to bump someone else off my existing schedule and I’ll stay at 27. Temple is a “must” for me in 2020.
I haven’t been inside the stadium — Lincoln Financial Field. It’s also the home of the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles. It’s one of four FBS stadiums I’ve never been in. South Florida, Georgia State and Texas are the other three. If I can get at least 25 new stadiums in 2020, I feel confident that I will reach my goal of hitting No. 130 during the 2021 season.
What is your criteria for a “stadium game”?
There are four elements to meet the criteria to qualify as a “stadium game”:
- The home team must be in its own stadium
- It must count on their win-loss record
- It must be versus an FBS opponent
- The full game must be completed
Let’s use Florida State to demonstrate. In order to count FSU, the game would have to (a) be played in Doak Campbell Stadium; (b) be a regular season game or hosting a conference championship (like The American, C-USA, Mountain West, Sun Belt); (c) be against one of the other 129 FBS schools; and (d) be played to completion. If any of these factors are not met, I do not consider it a “stadium game” which you can count.
Example for Element No. 1 – I saw Utah State play New Mexico State in Tuscon in 2017. It was the Arizona Bowl played at the home of the Arizona Wildcats (Arizona Stadium). This game doesn’t count for the Aggies because their home stadium is in Logan, Utah. It also does not count for Arizona, though it’s in their stadium, as I did not see the Wildcats play.
Example for Element No. 2 – In 2018, I attended the Nebraska spring game at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln. Anyone who has been to a spring game knows they are glorified practices and not a true representation of what a regular season game day experience would be like. I want to see the Cornhuskers play Oklahoma, Colorado, or Iowa at home and feel the energy from a capacity crowd. For this reason, spring games are not considered valid to add to a Game Traveler’s list.
Example for Element No. 3 – Also in 2018, I went to Iowa State’s home opener. The Cyclones played South Dakota State, which is a FCS team. I don’t count this game for the same reason I do not count spring games. The same intensity does not exist in FCS games as they would versus other FBS opponents. Fans at Jack Trice Stadium are not amped like they’d be if the Cyclones were hosting Iowa. I might only see one ISU game in my life and it should be under the best of circumstances. Games against FCS schools do not meet that criteria and do not qualify.
Example for Element No. 4 – What’s funny about that Iowa State-South Dakota State game is that it also was not played to its completion. With 10:55 remaining in the first quarter, the game was stopped due to lightning in the area. After a two-hour delay, it was canceled due to the weather. Did I go to a game at Iowa State? Yes, but I didn’t see an entire game. I still have Iowa State on my list of 42 remaining and believe that’s the way it should be.
I have one other rule that is not an “element” of a “stadium game”. That rule is that you can no longer count a school in your total if they get a new stadium. The most recent example is UNLV. The Runnin’ Rebels played at Sam Boyd Stadium from 1971 to 2019. However, they are moving to Allegiant Stadium (along with the Las Vegas Raiders) in 2020.
I went to a game at Sam Boyd in 2017 and had UNLV on my completed list. Now that the Rebels have a new stadium, I have deducted UNLV from my total. South Alabama is moving out of Ladd-Pebbles Stadium and into Hancock Whitney Stadium in 2020. If you have seen USA play in Ladd-Pebbles, it doesn’t count anymore. UAB is moving out of Legion Field in 2021. I’ve seen the Blazers play there, but will need to see a new game at Protective Stadium in 2021 to continue to count UAB.
I like this rule for two reasons: (1) It only makes sense that you have to see a team in their current stadium to claim it; and (2) this makes it so that the quest for 130 is ongoing. It adds another aspect of fun because you have to continue to chase your ultimate goal. This criteria might not be universal, but I think it’s best to follow these guidelines.
What tips do you have for prospective Game Travelers?
Here are some tips I think will help you get started:
- Identify your goals – Do you want to see every Big Ten stadium? Do you want to follow your favorite team to all of their road games? Define your objectives so you can actually achieve them.
- Know what you’re capable of – So many factors come into play. Where do you live? Does your job provide you with flexibility to travel? How much vacation time do you have saved? What is your home/family situation like? What is your budget/financial capacity? If you analyze your situation honestly, you can be clear-headed about what you can accomplish.
- Be smart with your money – Flights are cheaper if you book them far in advance. Rental cars are best priced around 45 to 60 days out. Avoid expensive hotels or split the cost of lodging among others you’re traveling with. Sleeping in a car or airport might not work for you, but don’t waste big money on a room you’ll spend very little time in. Lastly, wait as long as possible to buy game tickets. Often you get the best deals right before kickoff.
- Start local – Texas has 10 FBS schools, so if you live in Texas try to hit all 10 in 2020. Florida has seven, so do the same there. Big Ten and MAC schools are bunched up in the Midwest. Get 10, 15, 20 stadiums under your belt and build momentum.
- Do your research – Study weekly schedules thoroughly to see if you can hit multiple games on a Saturday or do a Thursday-Friday-Saturday combo.
- Work east to west – If you’re trying to hit multiple games in a single week, make time zone changes work in your favor. If you’re in Salt Lake City on a Friday night for a Utah game, you won’t be able to make a noon kickoff Saturday at Penn State. Look at Week 9 in 2020 for example. There’s a Thursday night Georgia State game in Atlanta, a Friday night game in Tulsa and a Saturday game at USC. You’d go from the eastern time zone to central to pacific and gain back time while flying.
- Enjoy it – It’s exciting when you walk into a new stadium and get a jolt of energy from the crowd. The students are always juiced for a game and they will raise your intensity level as well. It also makes you realize that all the time, money and sacrifice you made to be in that stadium was well worth it.
There you have it: My FAQ’s and tips for being a Game Traveler. If you decide to pursue this endeavor, know that you will have the support of others who share your passion.
I have met many other travelers and we not only share stories/experiences, some of us also try to coordinate schedules so when can be at the same games together. Meeting people is the best part of game traveling and I’d love to catch a game with you in the future. Follow me @cfbcampustour and contact me with any questions you have. Stay safe and let’s all hope for an uninterrupted, glorious 2020 season.