On game days, fans line up three and four deep around the main bar and sit on picnic tables outside as live music plays. It's the kind of place where old-timers relive details from the 1981 national championship-winning season over a plate of Famous Wangs, or where old friends catch up. On this day, Tigers fan Will Jameson unexpectedly ran into Ricky Thompson and Kevin Nettles, high school buddies from Orangeburg, S.C.
"You see a lot of the same people here over and over again," Nettles said.
The same is true at a Tigers tailgate, which more closely resembles the SEC in scope and fervor than most of the ACC. ("We're the SEC school of the ACC," Jameson says. "That's a compliment, I guess."). The fact that the Tigers were playing the Yellow Jackets on Thursday night -- their first such contest since 2002 -- made getting in and out of town difficult, despite the university cancelling all Thursday afternoon classes to handle the influx of traffic.
Still, the regulars made it, including Jeff Herbert from Anderson, S.C., who has been slowing traffic for 30 years with his customized, 1967 Cadillac hearse he uses for tailgating. Herbert drives "The Paw Bearer", as the hearse is known, to his tailgating spot just below the cemetery on the hill overlooking the stadium. There he shares food and swaps stories with neighbors.
"Not everybody does tailgating like this," Herbert said over a bowl of potato stew. "It's one big family."
If there's one thing the entire Clemson community rallies around, it's the Howard's Rock tradition before the start of every game. To describe the ritual as simply players rubbing a rock and running down a hill can't begin to do it justice. Students camp out for tickets to sit on the hill in the end zone. Fans wait in line to get their picture taken with the rock after games. Grown men tear up watching it.
"I get chills over it," Bashore said. "I get emotional. People in the South hold on to their traditions hard."
Another tradition at Clemson is that fans are allowed onto the field after every game, no matter the opponent or outcome. The stadium turf becomes another place for them to congregate.
"It's just a small-town atmosphere," said Rusty White, 52, from Fort Mill, S.C. "You can come here and not know anybody. But when you leave, you'll have eight or nine new friends."
MANHATTAN, Kan. -- Big-time college football programs are often complicated things, full of up and down cycles, famous and infamous names, notorious rivalries and unique traditions. Kansas State is not that way.
It doesn't take a visitor long to distill the essence of the Wildcats football program. Spend one weekend in the charming town of Manhattan before, during and after a home game, and the beating heart of Kanas State is made clearly manifest: family and Bill Snyder.
Kansas State is about family and the coach who placed the concept at the center of the greatest turnaround in the history of college football. Snyder -- laconic, unassuming, steadfast, brilliant -- would tell you family came first. We know this because it says so on the plaque on a granite pedestal under the eight-foot bronze statue of Snyder that stands just outside of Bill Snyder Family Stadium.
It reads, "We came to Kansas State University because of the people, we stayed here because of the people and we came back because of the people."