Like many of you, it will be my first time in College Station. So I enlisted Alan Cannon, Associate Athletic Director of Media Relations at Texas A&M, to help me lay out a game plan for the Clemson fans willing to make the trek to the Lone Star state this fall.
If you plan on driving to Texas, all I can tell you is enjoy your long trip! From Clemson, it is about 976 miles to College Station, and you'll travel through 5 states. For those that are mathematically challenged, that will take you between 15 to 16 hours, depending of course on your speed.
If you plan on flying, make sure you book your trip now to lock in the best rates possible. The price of airfare tends to increase dramatically the closer you book your flight to the actual departure date.
Most fans will want to fly into Houston's George Bush Intercontinental Airport, or maybe even in to state capital in Austin. Both are about 90 miles from Texas A&M's campus, which Cannon says, "Is an easy, and short drive to make."
First things first, make sure you see the essentials of Texas A&M University before leaving town.
"The university is fairly large, but it is possible to see most of it by walking," Cannon says. "We pride ourselves on having the friendliest campus in America. So don't be surprised if people come up to you and say ‘Howdy!' as you walk by. It's part of our pride for the University."
"Most people visiting this area will also want to visit the Lyndon B. Johnson and George Bush libraries and museums that are located near College Station."
Former students of Texas A&M often make Friday their arrival day on campus to soak up the traditions of a football weekend in College Station.
"We consider every game Homecoming for our former students. We don't designate one game as Homecoming like many schools," Cannon explains.
Like most college towns, there is plenty to do Friday evening for Clemson fans in the area.
A plethora of restaurants are in the area, and Tiger fans will get no shortage of opinions from locals as to which is the best. Many of the restaurants are located on University Drive in a restaurant row-type stretch.
For those that want to enjoy the nightlife in College Station, Cannon offered a few suggestions.
"Our most historic hang out is The Dixie Chicken. Our former students go there in mass on Friday's before ball games playing 42 (a dominoes game) and shooting pool."
"Freebird's and Hurricane Harry's are also places that many visit on Friday evening. There will be no shortage of people in any of those places," Cannon says.
A unique tradition that Clemson fans will want to witness on Friday night starts at the restaurants and bars on University Drive.
Right before midnight, folks will take the ½ mile walk to the football stadium where Midnight Yell Practice takes place. "We don't have cheers, we have ‘yells' here at Texas A&M. Each game will have Yell Leaders are assigned to pep everybody up. At midnight, those Yell Leaders will give a practice outside the stadium."
"The Fighting Aggie Band will be on hand. There are often stories told of past games and things like that. Coach Fran has been known to come by and give a talk to the fans. It's just an opportunity to get everybody ready for the game."
The Yell Practice will last about 45 minutes and then most head home to get their rest. Several of the bars are still open if fans want to continue their night, especially if kickoff is later in the day on Saturday.
Saturday: The Pre Game Festivities
Clemson fans will find parking in College Station similar to Clemson in that donors occupy most of the lots closest the stadium. Public parking is available to the West of the stadium at Reed Arena.
|Today, the entire student body at A&M is the Twelfth Man, and they stand during the entire game to show their support for their Aggies.|
Two hours prior to kickoff, the Core of Cadets will march to the stadium. "There are anywhere between 2 and 3 thousand Cadets that will make the march. It is a unique experience to witness."
"Then, one hour prior to kickoff, the Cadets will march into the stadium. Most of our fans will accompany the Cadets into the stadium at that time as well. Once inside the stadium, the Cadets will march around the track and then stand in formation for a review. If former President Bush is on hand, he will conduct the review himself," Cannon says.
For fans not wanting to get into the stadium that early, there is a "Fan Fest" outside of the north end of the stadium. There are plenty of interactive games for the kids and places to cool off.
During the Game
As many of you know, Texas A&M is famous for its "12th Man," which is their fans.
As sited from the football press guide of Texas A&M, the 12th Man tradition was born long ago:
"The tradition of the Twelfth Man was born on the second of January 1922, when an underdog Aggie team was playing Centre College, then the nation's top ranked team. As the hard fought game wore on, and the Aggies dug deeply into their limited reserves, Coach Dana X. Bible remembered a squad man who was not in uniform. He had been up in the press box helping reporters identify players. His name was E. King Gill, and was a former football player who was only playing basketball. Gill was called from the stands, suited up, and stood ready throughout the rest of the game, which A&M finally won 22-14. When the game ended, E. King Gill was the only man left standing on the sidelines for the Aggies.
Gill later said, "I wish I could say that I went in and ran for the winning touchdown, but I did not. I simply stood by in case my team needed me."
Today, the entire student body at A&M is the Twelfth Man, and they stand during the entire game to show their support for their Aggies. In addition, the football team also enlists one player on the kick-off team from the regular students to serve as the "12th man" on the field.
The fans in attendance, most of the time in unison, go through the "yells" as issued by the Yell Leaders on the field. And after Aggie scores, couples kiss each other in celebration. "Our fans love high scoring games," Cannon quips.
While the show of affection may not strike fear in the eyes of opponents, the Yells issues by 80,000 fans makes for quite an experience for visitors at Kyle Field. Ask any player, from any team in the Big XII Conference, and they'll tell you that playing in College Station is one of the most intimidating experiences in college football today.
After the Game
Another unique tradition at Texas A&M is what takes place after the game. Following an Aggie win, the Yell Leaders for that week are captured by the Core of Cadets and carried out of the stadium on the shoulders of the Cadets. After exiting the stadium, the Cadets carry the Yell Leaders to the Fish Pond, which is a fountain outside the YMCA building.
"Once the Cadets get up there and throw the Yell Leaders in the Fish Pond, they practice some of their yelling some more," Cannon says.
According to Cannon, the Aggies never lose; they are just games where they run out of time with the opponent having more points. Following the loss, the Yell Leaders will have a Yell Practice. "That tradition comes from the belief that if we have fewer points when time runs out, we have let the team down in some way. So, the Cadets will have Yell Practice to try and improve for next week," Cannon explains.
All the traditions that are unique to Texas A&M makes it an attractive place to witness a football game. However, according to Cannon, the number one priority is the way Texas A&M expects their fans to treat visitors.
"I think Clemson people will find our fans loud and supportive for the Aggies. We discourage Aggie fans from berating or demeaning the opponents and we have been told by visiting schools that this is the case," Cannon says.
"Our fans are excited about a quality opponent like Clemson coming to town. We want to make the experience a great one for the Clemson people, and I think that is exactly what will happen."
"I have been here for 23 years and visiting teams have always told us that they had a great experience. It is our goal for that to happen with the Clemson people, and I feel certain it will," Cannon says in closing.
So, those of you that are making the trip this September now have an idea of what to do and what traditions make College Station a great place to watch a college football game. Of course, all of these traditions will likely be more intriguing to Clemson fans if the Tigers can somehow come away with a win.
And for me…I'll be there cheering. Excuse me, I mean, "yelling!"
See you on September 18th in College Station, Texas.