Minutes before 4 a.m. Monday I finally understood the magnitude of what was going on at the USF Sun Dome.
I had to walk over empty bottles, food wrappers and human beings to get from one side of “Leavitt-Town” to the other. I also learned what a pinball feels like as I bounced around between the roughly 120 tents set up between Entry 3 of the Sun Dome and the Athletics building.
While the estimated 650
students played games, chanted fight songs and enjoyed everybody’s company, I realized that I was looking at the future of USF football – more specifically the fans who would be supporting it.
I have to say – I loved it.
Maybe I’m just a sucker for white sport utility vehicles with train horns, but last night seemed like the start of something very positive – not only for USF students, but also for the football team that they so steadfastly support.
The sight of the tents lined up next to the Sun Dome was more than impressive. As I climbed up to the top of the Society of Automotive Engineers’ bus, I saw USF students enjoying their late-night tailgating. There were radios blaring “Crank that Soulja Boy” – when they weren’t being drowned out by recordings of the USF fight song. There were homemade hookah lounges and even televisions set up with NCAA ’08 tournaments going in full swing.
Most importantly, though, students were genuinely excited about USF football.
The campers realized just how important this game is to the football team, not to mention to the University.
“I love the experience out here,” senior Justin Catania said. “I think that this is definitely going to be the biggest game ever for the Bulls, and I’m glad that I get to be a part of it.”
Almost every student seemed to share Catania’s enthusiasm. Another senior, Christopher Reese, was in awe of the improvement the team has made since he started at USF.
“This game is something that could really put USF on the map,” Reese said. “Everyone involved has done a great job with the team. The more we win, the more support goes up. That’s been the biggest change since I’ve been here. Team support has gone up a lot since we joined the Big East.”
Walking around “Leavitt-Town” was an awesome experience. One group of students set up camp as close to the doors of the Sun Dome as possible – because they arrived at 2 p.m. on Sunday. That’s 16 hours before tickets were to be sold. From there, the crowd grew steadily throughout the day. Once the sun went down, students seemed to head to the Sun Dome en masse.
It was close to midnight when I arrived, and people were walking around from tent to tent, making friends. There were no scuffles or arguments during my seven hours of waiting, and everyone seemed eager to meet new people. Students were playing games, throwing footballs – one came dangerously close to sending me into a heap on the floor – and I even saw a game of Ultimate Frisbee.
Watching people line up, camp out and sacrifice sleep – as well as most morning classes – was an experience that should not be a one-time thing.
The experience gave USF its first real taste of big time college football. I feel that by camping out for what is arguably the biggest game in USF’s regular season history, the student body will feel much closer to the football team. We don’t have a stadium on campus, but you could not tell from the way people were hanging out.
Also, credit needs to be given to the USF administration. The students were not only allowed to camp out for tickets, but the Sun Dome was opened up so everybody could be comfortable. The campers were given almost free rein over their activities. In return, the students had a long, fun night without many problems.
Now that students have had a taste of camping out, I really hope things like this become a staple on campus. Not only did this help boost school spirit; it showed the football team that they have the endearing support of the entire campus. Students also have a new way of making friends. Furthermore, students who have no means of leaving campus could use more events like this one to liven up on-campus life.
With 120 tents and more than 650 people making the first campout of the season a success, I cannot wait to see what the next one holds.