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Old Gold & Black

Old Gold & Black

Scott Kull: The new Director of Athletics
Abigail Taylor, Contributing Writer • April 16, 2024

In the South, It’s Just Different

In+the+South%2C+It%E2%80%99s+Just+Different

By: Chris Paschal, Contributing Writer

On Jan. 4, 2004, I was sitting in a booth with my family at Hunan Springs, a Chinese restaurant outside of Allentown, PA. I was nine years old. I remember two things from that night. First, the waiter who served our table was fantastic. He hustled the entire night, refilling drinks, bringing out food and occasionally sprinting from table to table. The second thing I remember is the BCS National Championship between Oklahoma and LSU. I remember looking at the massive TV perched above the cash register and becoming enthralled by the fanaticism of the Tiger Faithful dressed in purple and gold. Of course, I would later learn that those were the LSU fans and that this was their first shot at a National Title since 1958, but in that moment I was entranced by their zealous nature.

That is my first memory of SEC football. Fast forward four and a half years and I again would be fascinated by an SEC football team, only this time it would start me down the dangerous road of fanaticism.

In 2008, I understood college football a lot better than my 2004 self, and living in Charlotte, I knew a good number of Clemson fans. In 2008, Clemson was one of the best teams in the country and they were poised for a huge season. The Tigers were preseason top­10 in the nation and had their sights on an ACC Championship. Clemson opened the season against the 24th ranked Alabama Crimson Tide, a team many thought was over ranked. The year before they had gone a mere 7­6.

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I sat down with my dad to watch the juggernaut matchup, anticipating a Clemson victory. But as the game progressed, Alabama began scoring more and more and the ‘Bama fans began getting louder and louder. A couple of hours later, Clemson lay by the waste side and Alabama fans were chanting Rammer Jammer. Nick Saban and the mighty Crimson Tide had destroyed Clemson in what would ruin the Tiger’s season and set the tone for the first of many dominant seasons Nick Saban would have in Tuscaloosa. That was when I realized the SEC is different.

Compared to others, SEC fans are the only ones obsessed with their ranking in their conference. Only in the SEC will rivals root for rivals when an SEC school takes on a Big Ten or Pac­12 school. Only in the SEC will a school chant “SEC!” “SEC!” after a big victory in a bowl game. Only in the SEC will media days be covered by national media outlets. The SEC has bigger stadiums, and it better at recruiting and tailgating.

There is a commercial promoting the SEC featuring Auburn alumna Wynn Everett, beautiful trees draped in Spanish moss and snapshots of different fan bases throughout the SEC. Many of you have probably seen it.  The commercial ends with Wynn stating, “Here, it just means more.”

I agree. There is no other way to put it. Of course there are proud fan bases across the country, but in terms of an entire region of people, nobody cares about college football more than the South, and no conference cares as much as the SEC. Historians and sociologists have tried to explain why the South cares more, but I don’t think a single reason can explain the infatuation SEC fans have with college football.

Whatever it is, I saw it and I felt it in that Chinese restaurant in Pennsylvania. And I am thankful that I did.

To read more from Chris and his brother, Brendan, about SEC football, visit their blog at www.frontporchfootball.com.

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