Me, Karla, and Mike tailgating at Ray Jay as soon as they'll let us in the gates. Just the way we like it.
I've been fortunate enough to experience USF football games from every angle. On the field, in the press box, in the student section, in a luxury suite, in the tunnel... you get the idea. But in truth, the games to me are often secondary.
Of course a packed Ray Jay with the game on the line is something to behold. Maikon Bonani's kick to beat Kansas in '08 was amazing, or Lee Roy Selmon Jr.'s INT to beat Cincinnati in double OT in '03. And the loudest roar I've ever heard in my life is still Ben Moffitt's pick against West Virginia in '07. I was on the sideline about parallel with Moffitt as he caught it, and I swear I felt the grass under my feet vibrating when he took it to the paint. It's moments like those that make college football so special, and why it stirs so much passion in its fans.
But it's the side effects of those moments that often mean even more to me. I love seeing old friends hanging out around the pirate ship on Homecoming at halftime. Many times it's the same people I've been seeing at games, parties, and events ever since I started my journey with the beloved alma mater. It's just that now, those same folks have a stroller in tow instead of a red Solo cup. Guys that were my roommates, fraternity brothers, girls I had a crush on, random friends with whom I shared insane experiences with that are only socially acceptable under the guise of being an undergraduate; all those people that have meant so much to my life in college and beyond are all together, sharing the common experience that USF Football provides. I DVR every USF Football game, and not just to breakdown film later. It's because I often get into long conversations with old friends, and miss not just plays but entire series. I hate missing football... but I hate missing a chance to spend time with those friends even more.
Truth be told, no regular reader of this site will be shocked to learn I'm a bigger USF basketball and volleyball fan than I am of football. But there is absolutely nothing that can bring a campus community together like a Saturday in the Fall (and since we're in the Big East, that means Thursdays and Fridays too). Anyone that lived through the half-season Miracle of '07 can vouch for what being a USF fan can mean. Seeing a sold out Ray Jay was something I had dreamed of, and then it actually happened. I saw 10,000 kids lined up around the Sun Dome, some of them camping for two days, just for the chance to pick up football tickets. This wasn't some SEC blue-blood, this was MY school.
Getting to share all this with so many people I care about is what makes the USF game day experience so special to me. We're still such a young school and program, and yes sometimes we try and force traditions instead of letting them happen authentically. The students just started putting up their horns every time the band played "#8," and it stuck. More things like that will happen, and as they do it'll only increase my love of Game Day.
Oh, and the tailgating. I really, really love the tailgating.