This is not the first time I have anointed myself as the leader of change at Clemson. To this day I think Clemson should hire an Athletic Director in charge of Game Days in Clemson, but the phone has yet to ring so I suppose it simply is not in the budget.
I do think, however, there is sometimes a disconnect between those that run Clemson athletics and those that attend Clemson athletic events. Let’s face it, driving a couple of miles to Clemson and walking straight into a luxury box for a pre game meal and to watch the game is a far cry from the average Joe who drives into Clemson from hundreds of miles away, tailgates in a parking lot, and comes into the game to watch it in the elements.
Those that run Clemson athletics, for the most part, enjoy the first scenario that excludes them from having to deal in the elements and with the curious nuances that take place during a typical Clemson game day. I’m not here bashing those that take advantage of the boxes and amenities; I would expect those that have important jobs within Clemson’s Athletic Department to take advantage of those opportunities. And this change is not necessarily a job for Terry Don Phillips as he has his hands full with more pressing issues, and worrying about these gripes is far from his “to do” list.
But once a year some of those folks that make policy should shoulder up with you and me. If they would spend the day in a “normal” tailgating and game experience with the average fan, there would certainly be some eye opening experiences that would possibly force some changes.
Alas, that does not happen. So they have to hear it from me. Here are five simple things that would really make for a better game day in Clemson. Some are vital, some are silly. But all are doable if I were Director of Athletics in charge of Game Day.
1. The Tent Takeover
Here is an item that the Athletic Department knows is a problem, yet the problem persists and continues to grow.
Tents have completely taken over area parking lots, causing headaches, arguments, and hard feelings. All the while, tents seem to be eating up available parking spaces leaving some fans with passes and nowhere to park.
Clemson knows this is a problem, yearly pleading in the Orange and White and on literature mailed to fans with their parking passes. Limitations on the size of tents and threats to crack down have been issued, but for the most part the warnings have gone unheeded.
The problem is so bad that cars pulling into area lots close to game time can’t wade through the protruding tents to get to their numbered spots. In lots that are not numbered, parking has run out before all fans that have passes to that lot can be parked. Fans with passes are turned away, left to find parking in public areas.
The time for some bite to the threats is upon us. If fans don’t heed the required limits of tent sizes or if they simply place their tents in a way that minimizes the parking of other fans, their parking passes should be taken away from them. Personnel should be dispatched to the lots to monitor the situation as the cars are parked.
This is a tough one for some fans to hear, but there are thousands of fans that have been the victims of tents gone wild. And it needs to be corrected…not just with idle threats.
2. Music Overkill
There was a time when going in early to watch the Tigers warm up in the pre game was an enjoyable experience. It was nice to stroll in early, see the team go through their warm ups, and talk with folks around you about the game. It was even an opportunity for you to hear the last few minutes of the Tiger Tailgate Show on the PA system.
Those times have ended. Stepping directly into what goes on at NFL and NBA games, Clemson has resorted to piping in rap and rock music during the pre game. It’s loud, distracting, and soooo unlike what you would expect at a college football game.
I know I’m getting old. And hey, I like a little rap and rock in my car on a daily basis as much as the next guy. But piped into Death Valley? It’s cheesy.
I vote for going back to the broadcast of the Clemson Network at a moderate decibel level inside of Death Valley during the pre game. And once Tiger Band strolls in, turn all PA stuff off and let the band that Shakes that Southland take over.
That, to me, is more game-like than Nellie and AC/DC.
3. The Endangered Port-O-John
I’ve complained about this one before, so I apologize for rehashing what appears to be a dead horse as far as Clemson is concerned. But how in the world can you expect 80,000 fans to tailgate prior to a game with only 100 or so Port-O-John’s?
I park in Lot 2, and at my last count there were eight Port-O-John’s in the entire lot. I don’t know how many cars actually park in Lot 2, but I would guess that it is over 1000. Assuming four people to a car and another two visitors from other lots that visit Lot 2, the ratio of Port-O-John’s to people is beyond belief.
For a night game, the line can reach 40 deep at each station. And don’t be fooled, Lot 2 is not unique. This silly ratio goes on in every parking lot at Clemson.
It is bad enough that a guy has to wait for 30 minutes to use the restroom, but we are wired to be able to deal with it one way or another (and I have seen some unique methods of dealing with it from guys). But to see women and children waiting for that long is just not right.
If it is a matter of expense, the issue could be solved quickly by taking up collections in the lots from those of us fed up with the long waits. I doubt expense is the issue. I believe that the folks that make that decision simply have no idea what so few Port-O-John’s do to a parking lot full of fans. Spend an afternoon tailgating in a lot and you will quickly see how outrageous the situation is.
4. Mini Tiger Band
One of the newer traditions that I love is the small group of Tiger Band members that go around the parking lots and play Tiger Rag to fans as they tailgate. It’s a small group, maybe 5 or 6 band members in total. But hearing Tiger Rag as you tailgate is simply outstanding, and I would like to see more of it.
There are so many parking lots and so few band members; the logistics of trying to get around to all areas is certainly daunting. That being said, this is a call to Tiger Band to send more groups out and an additional call to Clemson fans to feed and hydrate these band members as they go around.
Let’s face it. Strolling around blowing horns in 90 degree temperature is nobody’s idea of fun. That being said, I have found band members to be dedicated to their trait, and I would bet they would be willing to sacrifice if there was a reward at the end of the work.
For starving college students, chicken fingers and a cup of sweet tea from tailgaters is akin to winning the lottery. So if you see this merry band of blowers tooting around your tailgate spot, reward them with some drink (non-alcoholic of course) and grub so that they will go back to the band practices the next week and spread the word.
If the rumor says that if you play you will be fed, then that small group of players will grow into several groups of players by week 3 or 4. If we all feed these tireless and selfless starving musicians at every stop they make, by the end of the season we’ll have the entire Tiger Band spread out among every parking lot ripping Tiger Rag every few minutes.
And that would be a good thing.
5. Scalpers Be Gone
I have absolutely no problem with Clemson fans trying to sell a few extra tickets before kickoff. I also see no problem with fans that have a few extra tickets walking the parking lots trying to get some compensation back for their investment.
I do, however, have a problem with the folks that hold up signs that say “I Need Tickets and I Have Tickets To Sell”. If those folks don’t have professional scalper written all over them I don’t know who does.
There is a group of sketchy folks that seem to be growing in number that descend upon Clemson to try and make a buck buying and then reselling tickets to Clemson football games. Ironically, most of these bozos don’t even try to pretend they are Clemson fans selling tickets, opting to sick out like a sore thumb in clothes that obviously don’t belong at a Clemson football game.
For the most part, these people are not rude and they are only a little pushy. But I still think it is tacky. It’s like walking off the MARTA for a game in Atlanta and getting swarmed by folks wanting to buy or sell tickets. It just takes away from the charm of the experience, if you know what I mean.
Phillips Arena in Atlanta does not allow selling of tickets by individuals a certain amount of feet from the venue. I’d hate to see us get to that point. But these “outsiders” that only come to Clemson in order to make a profit buying and selling tickets need to be expunged from the campus.
If Clemson can keep Wal Mart out of town, surely they can get rid of these little mosquitoes.
A Clemson game day is something to behold, and very difficult to manage. In many ways, it is much easier for me to sit here and tell Clemson what they should do than it is for Clemson to actually do what I suggest.
Overall, the Clemson game day experience is better than every other in the Atlantic Coast Conference. So many things are done well without praise to make the overall day wonderful, I almost feel naughty in picking out the weaknesses.
So I apologize for wanting my game day experience to be absolutely perfect. I apologize for wanting a place to park despite tents, for not losing my hearing in the pre game, for having a place to use the restroom without waiting for 45 minutes, for wanting to hear Tiger Rag, and for not being bothered by scalpers.
Is that too much to ask? Not if I were Athletic Director in charge of Game Day. No sir. All these things would be done with a smile if I were to be hired in this new position.
Until then, I guess we can still gripe.
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