In the latest installment of the CFB Campus Tour, our “Game Traveler” Mike (@CFBcampustour) answers some questions about his tour.
1. What is the most games you’ve attended in one weekend?
Five. I define the weekend as the entire week however. Most weeks, there is a Thursday and Friday night game, so if you hit those plus one Saturday, you’ll see three games per “weekend”. Later in the year, the weeknight schedule is expanded to create more opportunity. The Sun Belt Conference starts their “Funbelt” slate, which features Wednesday night games, in October. And the MAC conference unleashes “MACtion” in November with Tuesday and Wednesday action. During a 3-week stretch in 2019 (Week 11 to 13), I was able to attend 15 games in 19 days. Here’s what that schedule looked like:
It was the craziest and most fun three weeks I’ve had traveling to games. I literally did not even know where I was half the time. So the answer to this question is five games in one week (Tuesday through Saturday). It’s entirely possible to go to two on a Saturday though and make it six. That’s one of my new goals for 2020.
2. Any funny mascot interactions?
The best story I have with mascots is about Pistol Pete at New Mexico State University. In 2017, I stopped at the NMSU campus prior to a Friday night game at UTEP (the distance between the schools is only 41 miles). I made my way over to Aggie Memorial Stadium and was approached by someone who worked in the athletic department. Usually when I explain what I’m doing there and why I travel, people have a positive response. This time was no different.
What was much different was how much I learned about Pistol Pete (based on a real cowboy named Frank Eaton by the way). In 2014, Oklahoma State University sued NMSU for unlawful use of its mascot (which was trademarked in the 1990’s). Here’s a photo of each mascot:
I’d say it’s pretty obvious where New Mexico State got their Pistol Pete idea from. Ultimately, the schools settled and NMSU had to retire the old Pistol Pete mascot, though it is still allowed to sell a very limited amount of apparel with the “Classic Aggie” image on it.
After talking for a while, the NMSU employee asked if I wanted to see the retired Pistol Pete mascot head. I didn’t even know what it looked like to begin with, but of course, I said yes. He went back to his office and returned with original version of Pistol Pete. Not only did I get to wear it, I also had him take some pictures for me:
It was definitely a unique experience to say the least. I love showing up to a school unannounced and seeing what kind of fun can be had. The potential is limitless and this trip to Las Cruces demonstrates exactly that.
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3. Who is your favorite CFB team?
This is a question I get asked often. I graduated from the University of California at San Diego and we do not have a football program. I did attend many San Diego State football games at Jack Murphy/Qualcomm/Sand Diego County Credit Union Stadium, but I grew up in a NFL household. This was despite the fact that my dad played linebacker in college (first at BYU and then at Pacific). He was a huge San Francisco 49ers fan, so I followed his lead of course.
A few years ago, I starting losing my passion for pro football. The combination of players being unhappy with their contracts, teams dissatisfied with their stadiums, fans outraged with ticket prices and Direct TV packages had me looking elsewhere. I always followed college football, but because I didn’t know every player/coach/stadium/statistic like the NFL, I didn’t feel connected to it enough.
That anonymity however is ultimately attracted me to the college game. I realized I enjoyed watching “Team A” vs. “Team B” without a rooting interest and to see how the game unfolded much more than “Tom Brady” vs. “Peyton Manning”. To me, the spirit of competition is more compelling than watching individual athletes or NFL teams (aka business franchises) build on their “legacy”. The college game is more pure and that’s why I love it.
Today, I am a self-proclaimed “neutral fan”. While I do have ties to San Diego State, I consider myself a fan of all 130 FBS schools. I enjoy going to the games and connecting with fans in each city/town. It’s amazing how fans want to convince you that their school is the best — best stadium, tailgating, marching band, fight song, coaches, cheerleaders, etc. I honestly love how prideful fans are when they talk about their school. In some ways, I’m envious of their blind loyalty and devotion to their school. What works best for me though is traveling all over the country, enjoying those experiences and not caring about who wins on that particular day.
4. Which FBS game that you’ve attended had the smallest crowd?
Nov. 12, 2019 in Akron, Ohio. This was a night for only the most hardcore and/or devoted fans, as it checked all the boxes that lead to low attendance: (a) a Tuesday night game; (b) freezing and snowing and (c) the home team (Akron) was 0-9 on the season. These factors were not exactly a recipe for a sellout crowd. I always take a “Shot of the Night” photo at each stadium, but the upper level where I needed to go was closed off due to heavy snow fall. I talked with an usher about my travels and he was kind enough to let me go up to the top of the bleachers for my picture. Here’s what it looked like:
It’s funny, because I’ve discovered that people on Twitter respond more to negativity than positivity. During the year, I posted photos at Michigan, Clemson, Oklahoma, and none received the response this photo from Akron did. Comments included:
- “This looks like a little league game with only the players’ parents in the stands lol.”
- “Wow. There’s more people on the field than in the stands.”
- “This makes me feel sad. I’m sad…”
- “There’s more people at the Speedway” (convenience store outside the stadium).
- “Announced crowd of 13,000, right?”
Actually, the announced crowd was 10,811. As a fan of college football, I will never complain about crowd sizes. I appreciate the fact that these players performed to the best of their abilities in these tough conditions.
I also understand that the MAC conference is doing what’s best to gain national exposure. After all, weekday games provide more chances to see games that you’d never see if everyone played on Saturday. Small crowd, yes, but well worth the trip.
Don’t forget to follow Mike, our “Game Traveler” Mike on @CFBcampustour