The true meaning of southern hospitality

On Saturday night, USF football proved that it is ready to play ball with anybody in the nation. The Bulls went into Auburn’s Jordan-Hare Stadium in front of a national television audience and beat the Tigers 26-23 in overtime. I was fortunate enough to go to the game, but I could not have done so if it were not for one of USF’s most recognizable student organizations.

The Beef Studs stand out at every USF game they attend. They are usually hard to ignore. The Beef Studs – and Beef Babes, as the female members are known – paint their bodies green and gold, don bull horns and hula skirts and make sure every USF fan in attendance is ready to support the team. Most people recognize them from football, but the Beef Studs show support for the Bulls in all sports.

“We go to the basketball games, soccer games, and pretty much any game USF has at home,” senior and member of the Beef Studs Greg Vogel said. “The most important thing for us is to let our teams know that they have some support.”

The Beef Studs go to sporting events around campus and will travel to away games if transportation is not a problem. However, I learned that the Beef Studs are more than just a crazy group of fans at sporting events around campus.

“We go to some events around campus, too,” Beef Studs member Reed Johnson said. “We went to the Round-Up and recruited a bunch of new Studs.”

The Beef Studs go above and beyond to support the Bulls in any way they can. When Beef Studs president Michael Uglialoro invited me to Auburn, I was skeptical at first. These green and gold fans had intimidated me since I was a freshman. However, the Beef Studs were much more than I ever could have imagined.

The drive to Alabama was a lot of fun. Greg Vogel and Reed Johnson helped dispel any rumors about the organization during the trip.

“We’re about having fun, making friends, and supporting USF,” Vogel said.

Johnson felt like people at USF had the wrong impression of the Beef Studs.

“We don’t want people to think that because we paint up, we get crazy,” Johnson said. “We are all very laid back, and none of the Studs ever look for any trouble.”

When we arrived in Alabama, everybody in the Beef Studs predicted that we would get a harsh welcome. I was not particularly optimistic about a warm welcome either. I mean, we did go into the heart of football

country. Alabama is known for having die-hard fans, and I thought that I was in for a long weekend.

The Beef Studs were ready for the game at dawn – literally. At 6:45 a.m. local time, several group members were taking volunteers to be the first Bulls at the stadium. I decided to get a few hours of shut-eye.

By 11:00 a.m. Saturday, I was staring at one of the largest stadiums in the nation. Jordan-Hare towered over the Auburn campus. It looked as menacing as anything I had ever seen before. I just knew that 83,000 people in orange would tear USF fans apart. As we got to the area where the Beef Studs held pre-game festivities – which included handing out free Red Bull and hamburgers – I thought I was going to smell like somebody’s half empty beverage.

As I set up a chair, Auburn student Rob Jenkins approached me. I tried to act cool, but I soon learned that I had no reason to try.

“You guys came all the way up here for the game?” Jenkins said.

“Yeah, it was a nice trip,” I replied, noticing my voice had an unfamiliar twang in it, more than likely because I had heard it all the way from the car to the stadium.

“You guys need to come over here and hang out with us,” Jenkins said. “We have a bunch of food, and we just want to see a good game.”

Huh? Was this a joke? Was this the way people talked trash in Alabama?

This was no joke. In fact, nearly every Auburn fan had this attitude. They welcomed the Beef Studs – and by association, me – with open arms.

The Beef Studs and Tiger fans mingled for hours. People told stories, played football and a game called bags, where you throw bags onto a wooden platform with holes. There was even a rendition of the song “Sweet Caroline,” led by my new friend, Jenkins. Auburn fans showed the Beef Studs the meaning of southern hospitality.

However, a scuffle broke out near the Beef Studs tent, though no Beef Studs were involved. In fact, Michael Uglialoro was decisive in removing anyone associated with the Beef Studs from the area of the fight.

“That is not something we condone or want to be involved in,” Uglialoro said. “We are here to have a good time with awesome people and represent our University.”

So, after the little rumble, the Beef Studs marched toward Jordan-Hare. Everyone with the Studs began their pre-game chant: “Oh-we-oh! Go Bulls!” They repeated the chant all the way through the gates and to their seats.

Fans in the stadium greeted the Studs with high fives, asked for photos, and still wished them good luck. Auburn has the nicest fans I’ve ever met. Even at halftime, fans were saying “good luck” when they saw any USF fan.

After the dramatic end to the game, the USF section of the stadium echoed throughout Jordan-Hare. As the sea of orange parted for the exits in silence, the USF marching band, Herd of Thunder, played the school fight song, and the 3,500 USF students got a small round of applause. Again, Auburn had awesome fans.

After the game I walked to the car with Johnson and Vogel. Auburn fans gave us their congratulations, Diet Cokes and a chicken dinner. In the end, the students and fans of Auburn made the experience more fantastic than anyone could have hoped.

On the way home, Vogel and Johnson were excited at the possibility of having new Beef Studs and Babes upon their return to Tampa.

“All people have to do is find us at our spot at Raymond James,” Vogel said. “People just need to be a fan, and they’re more than welcome to join up with us.”