Great Life Experience: University of Alabama Football Game

University of Alabama football

University of Alabama football is an experience that is uniquely southern. While college football may be a staple of American society, football in the south is another experience altogether. It’s almost a religion.

The state of Alabama has no professional sports teams. While Auburn University is another major college football contender, when people refer to Alabama football it only means one thing – University of Alabama. Roll Tide Roll!

How big is USA college football?

Alabama football stadium aerial view
Bryant-Denny Stadium

Of the ten stadiums in the world that have a capacity over 100,000 people, eight of them are for college football in the United States. Half of these college stadiums are in the SEC, or Southeastern Conference. University of Alabama Bryant-Denny Stadium is one of these with a capacity of 101,821.ⁱ

One fan we met told us his pastor calls Bryant-Denny Stadium a cathedral to college football.

While we’ve been to other football games, college and professional, every team has things that make their experience unique.

What to wear for Alabama football

Steve and I went to Big 10 schools (the BEST football conference – yes, editorial trash talking J). Dressing for game day in the Big 10 means putting on some jeans or shorts, a school t-shirt or sweatshirt, and tennis shoes. A hat (often baseball cap) sporting the team logo, or at least school colors, is often added – especially as it gets cold.

While we did see a few people in Bama jerseys, overall the ‘dress code’ for Alabama football is decidedly more formal.

It’s a southern thing.

In the same way that people dress up for church, especially in the south, they also dress up for football. Some southerners will even say that they go to church twice. Church on Sunday and college football on Saturday.

houndstooth hat alabama football gameTeam colors for Alabama may be crimson red and white, but black and grey are also considered school colors. The grey comes from their elephant mascot, Big Al. Black came from the houndstooth hat that coach ‘Bear’ Bryant wore.

Insider tip: Students don’t usually wear something with the houndstooth pattern – this is usually reserved for alumni

Women usually wear a dress, romper, or dressy shorts. To go with that they slip on high-heels, cowboy boots, or flats. Outfits with at least some amount of red, grey, or black are the norm.

While the men are less formal than the women, they will often wear khaki pants with a polo shirt or dress shirt in team colors – often sporting a discretely placed team logo.

For this experience we compromised – no t-shirts, jeans, or jerseys. We also sported the coveted sorority pride button. Roll Tide!

Tailgating at Alabama

Alabama tailgate food spreadTailgating has evolved into a spectator sport in its own right. Tents, big screen TVs, and lavish spreads of food and drinks. In the SEC, many devoted fans start the football weekend on Thursday night or at least by Friday. Some fans will even have RVs. Some don’t go to the game but watch in in their tents!

As our daughter explained, everybody always ends up at the Quad before the game. This beautiful 22 acre space in the center of campus is where Bama football literally began. Football games were played here before the stadium was built. It’s also home to the Denny Chimes.

The festivities started with an Uber to a house close to campus where we meet up with a group of our daughter’s friends. This is where the day begins – at the pre-party. It felt more like being backstage at a fashion show or at a night club. I’ve never looked as good as these young women.

After a couple of hours we wandered over to the quad. What a party! Not only is the people watching great, but it’s possible to stop and talk to almost anybody.

Insider tip: Even without rain the quad was a bit sloppy and muddy from all of the foot traffic. Cowboy boots seem to be the best option if you want to mix fashion with practicality.

At one point I stopped to take a picture of a Big Al blow-up. This led to a mini ‘photo shoot’ orchestrated by the owners and started a debate of whether AL should have the LSU tiger ‘by the tail’ or if the tiger should be ‘stomped’ underfoot. Roll Tide! I seem to recall offers of drinks and food ensued.

Instead of the alumni experience with catered food, we had the student one complete with Jim N’ Nick’s pulled pork nachos, cheesy biscuits, and exploding beer. The experience included a shopping cart, the required school pride trash talking, and watching the band at Denny Chimes and then the library steps.

Sunset tailgate on Quad with Denny Chimes

 

Alabama football live in the Bryant-Denny Stadium

Two hours before every home football game the team arrives and enters the stadium via the Walk of Champions. During this time it is too crowded to really see anything so we passed, but The Walk of Champions is a shrine to Bama football and is interesting to visit when empty.

Insider tip: If you want the opportunity to meet any players and get autographs, check out the UA website where they publish autograph session times and locations for a couple of players.

Entering the stadium was generally quick and efficient. While bags are currently allowed in the stadium if they are clear, if you didn’t have a bag you could enter through designated ‘no bag’ lines which were much faster.

The design of the stadium is nicely set up so that bathroom and food facilities are easily accessible and on multiple levels which kept the lines reasonable short (except during half time). As we entered the stadium we had the option to grab free red and white shakers which was a nice touch.

Before the game started, members of the SOCOM Para-Commandos parachuted in carrying different flags which was a special treat. Below is video taken by one of them as they descend into the stadium.

Alabama football stadium noise

Without a doubt the biggest difference between watching the football game live versus on television is the noise. This stadium is very vertical which causes the noise to echo and reverberate. Large speakers ring the bottom of the upper deck blasting out high energy songs and the announcer.

Alabama effectively uses stadium noise to their advantage, especially on opponent’s third downs. Steve really enjoyed the energy and noise level of the stadium.

I felt the experience was more reminiscent of a pro football game than a college one. The band and cheerleaders play a very small part in the atmosphere and are often drowned out which I found a bit disappointing.

Insider tip: Bring ear plugs just in case.

Alabama football game traditions

For the first half of the game the noise volume was like sitting next to the speakers of an already loud rock concert. Fortunately, though still loud, it reached a more tolerable level in the second half.

As with most, if not all college football games, the band has certain things it does to help solidify school spirit. For the Alabama marching band those include the ‘Elephant Stomp.’ This is where they play a mini pep rally in the Quad, on the steps of the Gorgas Library, starting about an hour before the game starts.

During this pep rally and at the game, the band plays the requisite rousing fight song, “Yea Alabama.” At the beginning of the football game and half-time they also perform some signature marching formations. When the Alabama football players emerge at the start of the game, they run between the words ROLL and TIDE spelled by the band. The band also does formations for the signature Alabama ‘A’, an outline of an elephant in honor of their mascot, and the word ‘BAMA’.

While the teams are preparing for a kick-off, the crowd circles their shakers above their heads while chanting a loud “Roooooooll” and then gives a big “Tide” shout at the moment of impact with the football. Otherwise shakers are usually moved in a rhythmic front to back motion.

No football game would be complete without playing Lynyrd Skynrd’s 1974 song “Sweet Home Alabama”, with a Roll! Tide! Roll! thrown into the chorus line a couple of times.

 

 

“Dixieland Delight,” by the band Alabama (how confusing is this getting?), is another crowd favorite. While it is sung often at student parties, it is currently not played during Alabama football games due to some controversy with the lyric additions students have made.

Controversy concerns have also limited the use of the popular Rammer Jammer chant to only the end of the game.

Hey Auburn! (substitute any opponents name for Auburn)
Hey Auburn!
Hey Auburn!
We just beat the hell out of you!
Rammer Jammer, Yellowhammer,
give ’em hell, Alabama!


 

Before you go to an Alabama football game

  • Budget to see an Alabama football game – going to the game is an expensive proposition.
    • For a home Alabama football game, plan to spend at least $200/ticket. We used StubHub for ours because we find it gives us the opportunity for better seats and flexibility over other options. We saw a few people selling tickets the day of the game, but plan on all of the games being sold out.
    • Based on what we saw as we were driving in, parking is around $30. We took an Uber onto campus and walked back after the game.
    • Hotels in Tuscaloosa increase their rates during Alabama football game weekends by 3x and most require a minimum stay of 3 nights. Expect to spend about $1000 – captive audience. We stayed in the Holiday Inn Express in Pelham using points. It is under $100/night, fairly new, and reasonably nice.
    • We got a good deal on the rental car using Orbitz. For three days we spent $100.
    • If you are flying you need to choose between Birmingham (about 45 minutes away) or Atlanta (2.5-3 hours). We’ve flown in several times to each and either destination can be cheaper at any given time.
  • Pick which football game to attend – Each game often has some sort of theme. Homecoming offers the richest experience though it can be the costliest and most crowded. Games close to Veteran’s Day often offer something special like a flyby. A few games to weaker opponents will provide a possibility for cheaper tickets.
  • Check the stadium policy for what you can bring because they are constantly evolving.
  • Check the weather
    • Early in the season it can be over a hundred degrees Fahrenheit. If it rains the red mud quickly becomes a big factor in tailgating.
    • We went to a night game and the temperature ranged from 80s during the day and then dropping into the 50’s by games end.
  • Clothing – I purchased a great houndstooth scarf but unfortunately it was too hot to wear it. If you don’t already have a pair, consider getting some cowboy boots. Most of the students were wearing boots like these.
  • Alabama football Tailgating – you can rent almost anything you want for tailgating and it’s possible to get tickets to some group tents, but arrange this at least a week in advance. This tradition is also a big business boost to the university’s bottom line. While some of the quad is reserved for free tailgating, most is reserved at a cost of $2415 up to $15,015 for the season with food and drinks being extra.

Roll! Tide! Roll!

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