While my first love is the game of basketball, there is something about fall Saturdays that is addicting to me. The good folks at Fifth Third Bank were curious about the campus Gameday experiences around the country, and I have found that part of the reason it is so addicting is that the Big Ten shares a common bond with its gameday experiences. I have personally been to games at ACC schools, WAC schools, Big East schools, Independent schools, and even bowl games, but there Big Ten is unique.
First off, the atmosphere of actually having the stadium on campus is unparalleled. When I go to Miami to see a game the stadium is a good hour and a half away from campus on a good day of traffic. Plus, it is a bland pro stadium that merely has banners strung about to represent the Hurricanes, who are one of the most successful programs of the last 30 years.
When you're on a Big Ten campus you can feel the history in the buildings as you walk to the stadium. Walking to Ross-Ade Stadium with my dad as a kid I often heard, "That's the building where I had a class with Dave Butz." one day I can tell my own kids that I saw Drew Brees in the hallway of a building on campus. I am sure it is similar on other Big Ten campuses for alums. It is a connection with the small college town in the Midwest that brings us together. Game day is an event itself and the only thing in town on those days, not just one of many options like you get in a bigger city that (shock of shocks) may not care about college football.
You just don't get that elsewhere. In Hawaii the USS Arizona Memorial can be seen from the stadium, but it still far from the actual campus. In Miami a Wal-Mart parking lot is next door, not the dorm towers of Stanford Residential college. It is just not the same.
Then there is the tailgating atmosphere. Yes, it happens at other schools, but it is an event unto itself even outside of Bloomington. At Purdue alone I have seen a school bus, an old fire engine, and an ambulance converted into prime tailgate vehicles. these are the people I aspire to be one day, graduating above a propane stove and a cooler of beer on Slayter Hill.
Morgan Burke may not want us to tailgate by avoiding night games as if drunken gremlins will somehow set fire to the engineering fountain if a beer is consumed after the sun goes down, but the Purdue gameday experience is still enjoyable. If anything, it does allow me to get home to Indianapolis in plenty of time for the prime time and late west coast games.
I am sure many of you have your own game day experiences, so feel free to share them below.