Open Mike: Road Trippin’ and Rankin’ Mike Tufano September 19, 2013 Features, Open Mike K-State heads to Texas this week for the first road trip of the 2013 season. As I sat down to write what was yet another string of posts about how we own Texas I decided instead to look at road trips in general and give my take on the oft discussed Big 12 road trip topic: Worst fans in the Big 12. And why just worry about the current Big 12? I’ve been to every stadium in the old and new Big 12 except West Virginia. So here’s my ranking from best fans to worst at each team’s football stadium1. The Best: TCUAmon G. Carter StadiumFort Worth, TexasCapacity: 50,000 They’re the new kids on the block, for sure, but they were certainly welcoming. They know how to tailgate in Forth Worth… they just do it dressed business casual. Maybe it’s the mutual purple, the pride of finally being big time again, or just southern hospitality, but at least the first time around, they couldn’t have been much nicer. Throughout my experience, the best fan hosts tend to either be from schools that are traditional powers2 or schools that have never been good. TCU defies those trends and made for a great first impression last season. Iowa StateJack Trice StadiumAmes, IowaCapacity: 55,000 Iowa State clocks in next. They’re one of those schools that have just never really had much success. It ends up giving a laid back atmosphere full of fans that would like to win but are just comfortable with losing. Like K-State, the stadium is on the edge of town, surrounded with plenty of lots to tailgate in, which means there’s plenty of room for interaction. In all the games I’ve gone to at Iowa State, I’ve never had a negative interaction with a fan. BaylorFloyd Casey StadiumWaco, TexasCapacity: 50,000 This one, like many on my list, requires a disclaimer. I haven’t been to a game at Baylor since 1998. That means I can’t speak to what it’s like to lose a game there, let alone a heart-breaker like last year. But when Baylor was just the loveable loser doormat of the Big 12, and David Allen was picking punts up off the ground and still returning them for touchdowns, the Baylor fans had nothing else to live for, so they were genuinely kind to the visitors that were coming in to destroy them. NebraskaMemorial StadiumLincoln, NebraskaCapacity: 81,067 And here comes another disclaimer: This is about traveling to a stadium, not letting their fans come to you. Nebraska fans in Manhattan were some of the absolute worst. Tensions couldn’t have been higher on their last trip to the promised land, and they proved just how horrible a fan base could be. But if you’ve never been to a game in Lincoln, you’re missing out. It’s a great fan day experience, and they are welcoming of everyone who enters. It comes along with a certainty that you’re going to win the game. But along with that also comes an empty stadium when they end up losing 38-9. The “meh”: Oklahoma StateBoone Pickens StadiumStillwater, OklahomaCapacity: 60,000 This is the point at which the list makes a turn from the best experiences to the “meh.” Like a few others on this list, it’s been quite awhile since I’ve been to a game in Stillwater3, and while the last game I attended there was certainly memorable4, the fans were not. I don’t remember any positive interactions or any negatives ones. But Boone, if you’re reading, hook me up in your suite on October 5, and I promise we’ll get this bumped up the list. ColoradoFolsom, FieldBoulder, ColoradoCapacity: 53,613 Here we come to a hotly contested one. I am sure I’ll get some comments about how incredibly horrible the Colorado fans are. The truth is, I haven’t been to a game there since 1998, and from I’ve heard, things changed by the time they finally bolted for the Pac 10+2 basement. But my experience there was fantastic. We parked and tailgated on a practice field, grilled burgers, and played football with a handful of Buffs fans. Then we beat them, of course. Texas TechJones AT&T StadiumLubbock, TexasCapacity: 60,454 Walking into Texas Tech I was just thrilled to have finally made it to Lubbock. The map says it’s in the United States, but I’m pretty sure driving to it was the equivalent of driving to Zimbabwe. I vowed I’d never go back, and since 1997 I haven’t. At that time there were no fans in or around the stadium. Walking in a couple Texans were tailgating on a neighborhood street. As we walked past them one called out, “We’re gonna kick yer ass!” I stopped walking, turned around and calmly replied, “I doubt it.” The poor dejected Texan just said, “Yeah, you’re probably right.” Best trash talk session ever. KansasMemorial StadiumLawrence, KansasCapacity: 50,071 Keep in mind: This is about fans who show up for a football game on their campus. This is not about community college students who picked up t-shirts at Walmart and only wear them during basketball season or at Royals games5. This isn’t even about their arrogant fans who think you’re not allowed to cheer for anyone but their team, even when you’re wearing purple in their stadium. Or your own. This is about people who show up for a football game. Which doesn’t exist in this instance. So they salvaged a spot in the “meh” section. The Worst: Texas A&MKyle FieldCollege Station, TexasCapacity: 83,002 This is another stadium I’ve only been to once. And timing is everything. I’ve heard from a lot of people that aTm is a great place to watch a game as a fan, but when I was there in 2000 all anyone wanted was some sort of twisted revenge for the 1998 Big 12 Championship game. Not only did that not happen, but the tension between fan bases was enormous. There was no way anyone was getting out of that stadium without aTm fans screaming and acting like idiots. Come to think of it, their current QB fits right in. TexasDarrell K. Royal StadiumAustin, TexasCapacity: 100,119 If there’s one good thing to be said about Texas fans, it’s that they know to shut up after you kick the crap out of them. Austin is a great town, and a ton of fun, but it loses a bit of that excitement when people are spitting on you as you walk down 6th Street the night before the game. Until the game was in hand the Texas fans couldn’t have been much more rude, but to their credit, as soon as it was, they hung their heads and walked out quietly. OklahomaGaylord Family Memorial StadiumNorman, OklahomaCapacity: 82,112 This is pretty much the same as Texas. For two schools that hate each other so much, they certainly are pretty much one in the same. The same arrogance. The same hanging their heads and crying as they file out of the stadium after they get beat. But before the game their sense of entitlement empowers them to be the scum of the Big 12. MissouriFaurot FieldColumbia, MissouriCapacity: 67, 124 For all that Texas and Oklahoma have learned about shutting up when they get beat, Mizzou never did. Which is particularly odd, given that they have pretty much mastered the feat. Somehow they’ve found a way to get even louder once you’ve beaten them. They’re brash, rude, and loud before the game, and it only doubles as they wander the 6 mile walk back to their cars after another losing attempt at football. Pending a ranking: West VirginiaMilan Puskar StadiumMorgantown, West VirginiaCapacity: 60,000 See you in 2014, West Virginia.Notes: One of the most important aspects of this is that these are totally subjective. Experience is formed by who you end up running into. For example, my experience at Colorado was fantastic, but I frequently hear how terrible their fans were. [↩] With some HUGE exceptions… *ahem* Texas & Oklahoma [↩] Anyone have an extra for October 5? [↩] Hello 28 point comeback [↩] Why does this happen?!?! [↩] K-State fans, we salute you!