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Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Classiest College Football Fans

Last month, I posted a story listing my picks for the worst college football fans in America. Today, whether you want them or not, I give you my picks for the best and classiest college football fans filling stadiums each fall.

Before you read, a few things about this list: First, it is not complete nor do I claim it to be. That's because only those schools where I have actually attended an away game as a Michigan fan were considered. Thus, while I hear Nebraska fans treat the opposing team and its fans with respect in Lincoln (as well as at the Alamo Bowl last December), since I've never been to a game with these fans, they were not in the mix for this list.

Second, I've tended to leave off fans of teams who, no offense, aren't that good. For example, I have been to games in Bloomington twice to watch Michigan play IU and their fans were fantastic. Didn't have one bad experience. However, in my opinion, it's hard to get worked up and be an a-hole fan when one's team is a 30+ or so 'dog and loses accordingly. So for this list, I felt something must be on the line, be it a rivalry, two ranked teams or a bowl match-up. Only then can you get a true gauge of the caliber of fan. And if the opposing stadium wasn't sold out, forget it. Right there, you had a strike against you which knocked you off the list (sorry again, IU).

In terms of how I made my picks about the best and classiest fans, I had a couple different criteria:

1) How fired up are they leading up to the game and how do they treat the opposing fans around town prior to Saturday?
2) Pre-game atmosphere and how do they treat opposing fans outside the stadium on gameday?
3) How do they treat the other team's fans inside the stadium and did they show the love to their own team during the game (i.e. were they LOUD!)

Also, I generally don't punish a school for the "drunk frat guy element." Meaning, every school has its drunk frat guy a-holes. But at the bad schools, the harassment and classless behavior extends well beyond this expected demographic. Conversely, at the schools with the classy fans, the supporters one might rightfully expected to be complete jerks aren't. Classy begets classy.

Now, without further adieu, here, in no particular order, are my picks for the top 3 classiest college football fans I've ever encountered.

IOWA HAWKEYE FANS

Not long after graduating from college, some friends and I decided to make the roadtrip to watch Michigan play Iowa in Iowa City. I had never been there before and always wanted to check out a game at Kinnick Stadium.

Arriving the night before, we all decided to hit the bars on campus. Sporting our Michigan gear, we ventured out and landed at one of the campus hot spots. First of all, any "taunts" directed our way were of the pro-Iowa "Go Hawks!" variety as opposed to the anti-Michigan type so popular in Columbus.

At the bar, my girlfriend and I along with our other three friends were all sitting around a table drinking when, spotting our Michigan clothing, a group of Hawkeye students approached. Now, having been to Columbus numerous times before this, I immediately tensed preparing to be verbally assaulted at best.

Instead, these Hawk fans asked if we were from Michigan and, saying we were, bought the next pitcher as we discussed the next afternoon's game. We talked for a half hour or so, finished the beer before they wished us luck and excused themselves. For that reason alone, they make my list.

At the game, Iowa fans filled their stadium with a sea of black and gold as they LOUDLY cheered their team on. Yet as passionate as they were, they never took it out in a negative way on the Michigan fans in attendance. From my experience, Hawkeye fans were class all the way.

OREGON DUCK FANS

During the 2003 season, my girlfriend and I flew to Oregon to watch the soon-to-be-exposed #3 ranked Wolverines take on the Oregon Ducks in Eugene. I had always wanted to go to Eugene because I heard the fans were as loud as they come, Eugene was the quintessential college town and, best of all, its where they filmed ANIMAL HOUSE.

The night before the game, my girlfriend and I decided to walk around downtown. There was a street festival in the city and the place was jumping. First of all, I've rarely seen so many Michigan fans at an away game, a number that I think even surprised Oregon folk. M supporters were everywhere.

Passing each other on the street, many a "Go Blue!" was shouted between the maize and blue faithful. Yet the reply from nearby Oregon fans was never anything but "Go Ducks!" And while nobody bought us a round in Eugene, Oregon fans couldn't have been nicer at each place we went.

In addition to the class of the fans in Eugene, what struck me the most was how unbelievable LOUD Autzen Stadium was considering its size. It "only" holds some 54,000 - roughly half the Big House - yet it is 3x as loud. And not just for a play or two but all game! These fans were incredible. Screaming and making noise at the top of their lungs from the opening kick-off. I have been to the 'Shoe, Penn State, MSU, ND, Iowa, etc., etc., etc. but these are the loudest fans I've ever encountered.

For those two factors, the Oregon Duck fans are some of the best and classiest I've had the privilege to watch a college game with.

TEXAS LONGHORN FANS

Following the 2004 season, Michigan was set to play in the Rose Bowl against the Texas Longhorns. For the game, a bunch of us rented an RV and tailgated outside the stadium. We ended up right next to a large group of Texas students who had made the roadtrip from UT. We ended up hanging with them and tossing the football around before the game as well as sharing a couple beers.

Walking to the Rose Bowl, the parking areas seemed to be evenly split between M and UT fans. There was good natured cheering for one another's team going on everywhere until we got close to the stadium when a group of Texas frat-looking guys yelled "Michigan sucks!" or something to that effect. But what surprised me were other UT folks walking near us who immediately jumped in to apologize. Quite a surprise if one has ever been to Columbus.

Then, after Michigan lost a heartbreaking game on the final play, instead of rubbing it in as we filed out, UT fans were very gracious in victory saying, "Good game" and things like that.

For these reasons - as well as having some of the cutest co-eds I've ever seen - the Texas Longhorn fans round out my list of the classiest college football fans I've ever encountered.

24 comments:

jabbey said...

I definitely agree about the Iowa fans. Me and my wife went to the game up in Iowa City this past year and we were treated pretty well. We got a couple of comments before the game from some drunk students, but nothing crazy. After the game (which we won in OT) we didn't hear a word. Good time and I would definitely go back up there for a game. The crowd was ridiculous loud to, so that is good.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the Texas props. We had nothing but good things to say about the Blue after the Rose Bowl in 2005, and experienced nothing but b.s. from tOSU "fans" in Columbus. We're having them in to Austin this year and I expect they will leave having experienced classy Texas fans and the best damn BBQ in the world. Y'all are alright in my book. Go Blue, and Hook 'Em.

Minnesotahorn said...

This is fantastic to read and everyone I spoke to had nothing but great things to say about Michigan's fans. Classy and supportive all the way.

I'd love to schedule a home and home with you folks to visit The Big House and get you guys down here to DKR. The BBQ's on us.

cmstrick said...

Couldn't agree more on the Iowa fans, and yes, Ohio State fans are jerks, and it is always, anti-"insert your team here" chants, that get old and tiring.

Trojan Mike said...

Hey, Michigan fans are pretty cool too. But I'm sure you couldn't vote for yourself. And a lot of loyal fans. Enjoyed meeting some of you at the Rose Bowl 3 years ago against my USC Trojans. I love the PAC-10 vs Big-10 match up.

Anonymous said...

I commented on Ohio State being the worst fans, so I feel moved to comment on my opinion of the classiest. In my personal experience (approximately 10 games worth), the classiest fans I have ever come to meet are ND fans. Please don't shoot me! Most may disagree with me, but I have been to just about every big ten venue several times and I have been to several bowls, and there have been great fans at Iowa and Wisconsin (yep, many would disagree with that also), but ND fans are still the classiest. Also, I live in Chicago, so I run across many ND fans. I have much respect for ND and I think deep down most ND fans have respect for us. After all, we taught them how to play football. I think there is a mutual respect between college football's two most storied teams and I often see that respect manifested with good treatment at their stadium and fun banter at Chicago drinking establishemts.

I will restate that this is just my opinion.
Thanks :)

Anonymous said...

post above signed by
C-dub in Chi-town

Benny Friedman said...

C-dub in Chi-Town, I have to agree about ND fans. They're actually pretty similar to Wolverine fans. They might be arrogant, and think they invented the game, but you're not real likely to suffer abuse when attending a game there. Hell, the worst an opposing fan will likely hear in Ann Arbor is "Down in front."

Benny Friedman said...

As cmstrick said above, I think the key to fans being "classy" or not depends on whether their main priority is cheering for their team, or denigrating the opponent. For all three schools that Yost listed, he mentioned how opponents would respond to "Go Blue" cheers with "Go My Team." That doesn't happen in Columbus.
{High Horse}When you're happy with your place in life, you don't worry about knocking others down. {/High Horse} Clearly the fans in Iowa City, Eugene, and Austin are happy. And I don't blame them.

IC said...

I'd have to say the classiest fans I've ever encountered were those at Al Qaeda U.

It's true that they are always going on about "Touchdown Mohammad" and their ritual burning of the opposing team's flag while tailgating is a bit intense for my taste. But hey, they love their team.

When I went there a few years ago, there wasn't one suicide bombing and most of the guys shouting, "Death to Michigan!" were just your typical drunken jihadists.

Anonymous said...

I have to absolutely disagree with your inclusion of Oregon Ducks fans. Being from Washington, and having gone to Michigan, I must say that Ducks fans are simply wannabe Buckeye fans. They get mean and dirty when the Huskies or Cougars head to Eugene, but then apparently become pansies when national powers come to town (as opposed to Buckeye fans who are mean and nasty to whoever comes to town, but obviously particulary mean and nasty to Michigan fans year round).

As for Classiest fans, I would rank the top five as follows:

Notre Dame
Michigan
Nebraska (mainly because a high percentage of the stadium is older women who know every players entire history)
Iowa
Texas

Sean said...

I definitely agree with with Texas being up there. When I was at the Rose Bowl against Texas, and even at the hotel, which was split between Michigan and Texas fans, every Texas fan I met was very classy and seemed like they were just happy to be there, as was I. It was a completely different experience from the year before, most USC fans I met (no offense) were very unclassy at the game. What's really funny, on my way back from the Texas Rose Bowl, my flight was delayed and I talked with 2 very nice USC fans for about an hour as they were on their way to the Orange Bowl.

Anonymous said...

As a Trojan, I like to think we treat our visitors pretty well. We have always had a great time with our friends, new and old, from Michigan when they come out for the Rose Bowl--always a lot of fun and a lot of respect. The Texas fans were also fantastic at this year's Rose Bowl--not a cross word from the bunch! I think it has to do with "been there, done that."

Yost said...

Matt,

Didn't even hit the strip clubs and Iowa still made the list.

Oh, and the schools listed are in no particular order.

Matt S said...

I concur with you number one choice 100%. I have been there twice and the people were great. Sat next to an old fella' who had to get home because he was rooting for Iowa State over OU that night! Always friendly. Plus, stay in the Quad Cities and there is gambling on the ole Miss', and good strip clubs!

Matt S said...

Hey, if Texas can beat OSU next year, they might move to the top of the list.....

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the props for Texas fans. I really enjoyed shooting the breeze with all the UM fans on rivals.com. It was all very respectfull and civil, unlike much of my experience with the folks in the state just to your east. I also encountered tons of very cocky, arrogant USC fans on the web, but the ones I met in Pasadena were mostly nice. BTW, if there is any school which can compete with UT for gorgeous women, it is definitely Southern Cal. Good luck in '06 Wolverines.

BaggyPantsDevil said...

I think another thing that characterizes classy fans is a simple love of college football as a sport. Being able to appreciate the performances of talented athletes regardless of what team they play for goes a long way towards heading off the “Fuck (insert hated rival’s name here)” vibe.

As infuriating and painful as it was watching Vince Young slice and dice his way through the Michigan defense in the 2005 Rose Bowl, I still marveled at his abilities. And, as much as I want Michigan to destroy Ohio State each year—hey, you got to have dreams—I couldn’t help but be impressed by the way A.J. Hawk seemed to be involved on every tackle in this years game.

One Saturday evening last season, I was flipping through the channels and lo and behold there’s Vanderbilt hanging in there against Florida…at the Swamp! This is a game that has absolutely no significance to me, but I couldn’t help being drawn in by the compelling images of the lowly Commodores—perennial whipping boys of the SEC—taking the Gators into overtime. There’s just something beautiful about watching a bunch of college kids transcend their own abilities like that.

Fans that understand that all the athletes on the field are basically the same—they just ended up going to different schools—and that the fans rooting for their teams are also basically the same—we all love college football and we all can’t root for the same team—are going to be better fans, more interested in cheering for their team than denigrating the opposing team.

Anonymous said...

Being a USC alum I wholeheartedly agree with the previous posts. Michigan fans are great and should be included in the list. I also really appreciated the Texas fans as they were so very classy before, during and after the Rose Bowl. It was a painful moment for us but they showed a lot of respect for what they had just seen. We also welcome fans from the other school to our on-campus tailgates (even UCLA!) to eat and drink with us. It was a real blast having mai-tais with the Hawai'i fans!!!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the kind words about Duck fans. I for one make it point to greet and shake hands with every visiting fan I see on gameday. I love college football and I want everyone to enjoy it. As for the Washington poster, there is a lot of animosity between the Ducks and Huskies, probably more so than the Ducks and Beavers. But this past year when they came to town I heard nothing but great comments Husky fans had to say about our fans. And by the way, Michigan fans WERE everywhere that weekend! It was a great game and I'm looking forward to being in Ann Arbor in '07!

Anonymous said...

As a Texas fan I'm really glad to see these thoughts and posts.

I was at the Texas-Michigan Rose Bowl and have nothing but good things to say about M fans.

tOSU fans are the worst. Texas has no rivalry with them (first time playing against tOSU was '05) and I was treated worse in Columbus then if I were out on a Saturday night wearing burnt orange in Norman, OK (I've done this too). I hope tOSU fans get treated well in Texas but there is a lot of bad blood there.

I will have to say that Nebraska are the best fans in the world - no question, end of story. Texas fans are WAY back compared to Nebraska. I was in Lincoln for the Texas-Nebraska game (Major/Ricky Williams team) when Texas broke Nebraska 47 game home winning streak - and they still have the Texas team a standing ovation when they walked up and were yelling "Heisman" for Ricky. Amazing people, experience, etc, etc...

As a Texas fan, Arkansas fans are horrible - terrible in fact. Texas fans call Fayetteville, "Fayette-nam". Not a friendly place for a Texas fan.

I now live in Denver and Colorado fans are horrible. NO class.

I didn't have any problems with USC fans who actually went to USC. I only had problems with USC fans who don't even know where the campus is located.

Texas Texas A&M-Texas relationship is similar to the UM/MSU one. You kinda of want them to do well, because they are kin, but at the end of the day they are your little brother and you want/need to put them in their place. A&M fans show a lot of class (for the msot part) though.

GO BLUE and HOOK'EM!

madmanc said...

I was at the 2005 Rose Bowl game between Texas and Michigan... had some Blue fans sitting right behind me. Never heard anything other than the normal smack that always goes on. After the game, I was shocked and happy to see most of the Michigan fans didn't just leave. When the trophy was presented to Texas, the Michigan fans stood up and applauded. THAT is class! Was very impressed with Blue fans. Hope we can meet more often than once every century. Go Blue and Hook 'Em

pkluck said...

You can't be serious? Hawk fans? They are some of the most obnoxious fans out there. They had a couple of good years against poor competition and they think they are USC in the running for a national championship each pre-season. Don't confuse folksy Iowans with Iowa fans. This year they have a dreadful team but will make a bowl game because of their pathetic schedule, then the bird brains will be crowing about another bowl year. Eh gawds.

Joshua Rupiper said...

As a Husker fan that has made it out to a number of Big 12 stadiums, I have to say that the Texas fans are one of the classiest acts around. It's a lot different than being in Colorado/Oklahoma (NOT classy when they lose). Although, I haven't seen NU beat Texas in person, so maybe that isn't fair (we can never pull a win out against UT).

I would still have to say that I've seen some great things from Husker fans in Lincoln you just wouldn't normally see (example: an NU fan bought drinks for the only OU fans (a couple) in a bar downtown).

I think one of the necessities for great fans is for there to be a lot more fans than can fit in the stadium. When tickets are $60 (parking extra), and the stadium is a 2+ hour drive away from home - all this for a game against 1AA Whatever, people don't get drunk and forget where they are nor do you have a whole bunch of dirt poor rowdy students.