Have you ever been told to never give up or to finish everything you start? Well, I have and that is exactly what I am doing after I made an impossible goal to attend a college football game at every NCAA and NAIA program (764 according to Wiki) in the country before I’m 6 feet under. I am sure there are plenty of college fans out there who made a goal to visit all the schools in a conference or all the schools in a certain division. However, I highly doubt there is any college fan out there who wants to attend all divisions including the NAIA just for fun. Although, let’s be real, it is impossible.
The idea sparked back in 2015 after moving to a new state and without knowing a soul. I had weekends free and living in Austin, Texas, I had some pretty darn good football all around me. I attended a Hook ‘em Horns game and a few other local games like Houston Baptist, Incarnate Word, and Mary Hardin-Baylor, getting me into the football spirit. That year, I also had to travel for work to Madison, Wisconsin, so my buddies and I had the opportunity to see the Badgers play. After that game, due to having so much fun in the amazing city of Madison, a beautiful campus, front yard tailgates, fans pounding beers in the freezing cold, and the stadium shaking during the jump around song, I was sold to the idea that I MUST see it all; the tailgates, the campuses, the cities, and the overall atmosphere surrounding the infamous game day. I then spent the next 3 years trying to absolutely dominate the college landscape (Or at least the Texas one), making at least one big trip a year as a mini vacation with my high school friends (Colorado, Washington State, and Boston College so far) and spending as many weekends as possible driving to a new city/school each week.
Fast forward to four college football seasons later, I now have attended 66 different schools through week 6 in the 2019 college football season, not including FCS, D2, and D3 National Championships. If you are trying to do the math, luckily I had some random schools sprinkled in from growing up and from my brother’s football recruiting visits, before the past 3-4 seasons of religiously attending games. I have experienced many ups and downs, popular name brand schools and scratch your head never heard of ones, legit games and horrific ones, beautiful campuses and unattractive ones, scenic drives and epically boring ones, amazing tailgates and non existent ones, upbeat cities and deserted ones, and the list goes on and on. Also, my walls are now covered with game day tickets in picture frames and mini football helmets of all the schools I have visited. Some may say I am obsessed, and they are right, I pretty much am.
At the end of each season, I question why I even started this journey of attending random games where I do not have any ties, instead of just watching my favorite teams play each week. Born and raised in Youngstown, Ohio, I much rather watch Youngstown State or Mount Union games every week (I still do watch on my phone while traveling), something I am highly invested in due to family members playing and our hometown teams with winning histories. I have come to the conclusion that the spark came from graduating from a Division 1 college that did not have football, meaning I had no allegiance to college teams once I earned my degree. Hailing from Niagara, a Mid Major school in Basketball, I always root for the underdog to win and move up the rankings while lobbying hard for the top teams in the country to fall, something most Mid Major diehards do. Living in Texas at the time, I had no FBS teams to watch on TV with an alumni group and I definitely did not have an Alma Mater that I could attend in person each week.
As much as I love college football and this impossible goal of mine, attending 10+ random games a season, sometimes driving 3+ hours or even booking a cheap flight, the experience gets pretty tiresome by the end of each season (Especially when an excess of smaller schools in Texas play at high school stadiums). However, the journey is not all about the football, it is about the experiences of traveling, getting to see new cities, discovering breweries to drink new beer (Another love of mine), explore nature in some cases, and in the end, football is just the icing on the cake.
I enjoyed all my experiences, but some stuck out over the others throughout the years in a few categories. Some of my favorite tailgates have been SMU (Boulevarding), Tarleton State (Awesome BBQ), and Texas State (These kids are crazy). Some favorite stadiums of mine due to scenery have been Colorado, Southern Utah, and UTEP because of the mountains. Some of my favorite small stadiums have been Abilene Christian, Charlotte, and Mary Hardin-Baylor due to not having a bad seat in the house. Some favorite traditions have been New Mexico State (They love their Pistol Pete), Texas A&M (Midnight Yell), and Texas Tech (Tortilla tossing at its finest). Some of the best games were Grove City (One of the few back and forth scoring games resulting in OT), Hardin Simmons (Top ranked teams battling and you basically stand on the sidelines) and Washington State (Beat higher ranked USC, stormed the field, and couches were set ablaze). Last but not least, some of the most memorable overall atmospheres have been Texas, Wisconsin, and West Virginia. I am sure I left plenty of schools out that deserve to be on this list, but after so many games, my memory is blurred. I left Youngstown State and Mount Union off the list to not be biased.
Overall, I have been to football games at 66 different schools and have a whopping 698 more to attend. This season is not even half way through, so I have quite a few weeks left to rack up some more schools to get closer to the century mark. For all you mathematicians out there, I know it is impossible to see games at every school and I also know there are many other obstacles in my way. One of them being running out of schools within a 4 hour driving radius. Luckily, after attending games at 29/31 schools in Texas, I moved to North Carolina which will give me another two years of new stomping grounds, and I still have family back in Northeast Ohio to attend games during the holidays. How I will ever visit the remaining schools without moving every couple of years is the big mystery and obvious roadblock. Another, waiting until the age of 28 to start attending games was a little too late. I may not be able to accomplish my journey, but I can at least see how many schools I can ultimately cross off the list. Wish me luck!
Here is a list of schools I have attended as of Oct 7th, 2019:
|East Texas Baptist|
|Mary Hardin Baylor|
|New Mexico State|
|North Carolina State|
|Prairie View A&M|
|Sam Houston State|
|Southwestern Assemblies of God|
|Stephen F Austin|
|Texas A&M Commerce|
|Texas A&M Kingsville|
|West Texas A&M|