To the world of college football nothing is more sacred than rankings. We love to have coaches rank teams, media to rank players and teams, and even get computers in on the action. But what about the fans? I say it's time to rank the fans of the Big 12!
Last week we began with a look at the Pac-12 fanbases, so why not stick with tradition, so sit back and enjoy our fanbase rankings once again.
As a reminder, we take in to consideration the size of fanbase, student sections, tailgating, stadium atmosphere, traditions surrounding the games, and travel of the fanbase. As someone that grew up in the mecca of tailgating - Green Bay, WI - I admit I have higher standards when it comes to the pre-game activities, but I will tell you this much, there's more than tailgating to a fanbase too.
With that, it's time to dig on in, so let the debate begin!
There's no doubting that there are passionate fans of the Bears, but this is one of the smallest fanbases in the conference. Their stadium has absolutely nothing to offer and more often than not Baylor fans have trouble selling the stadium out without the opposing fans taking it over - just look at what happens when Texas or Oklahoma come to town.
As for tailgating? What tailgating? The stadium is off-campus and makes for a very strange vibe for anyone attempting to tailgate. While they've tried to make an effort over the past ten years or so, it's very lacking to say the least. There's nothing that can replace having students building tradition because the stadium is easily accessible. Get back to me in a few years when the new on-campus Riverside Stadium is built and this could be a different story all together.
As for tradition? O.k., they shoot off fireworks after scoring a touchdown and they sing the schools fight song and Alma mater. Congrats, but what school doesn't do that? The only one that's worth mentioning is the Baylor Line storming the field before the game. Yes, you hear that right... These crazy Baylor freshman are the only ones I know of in college football that actually storm the field before the game begins.
Because they lack any big tradition, any real tailgating culture, and have a horrible time filling their stadium even when they are winning they rank at the bottom of the barrel in the Big 12.
For me, there's no better example of a major conference school saying we don't give a crap about our football team than Kansas' poor excuse for a stadium. We get there was a fad at one point of having a running track around your football field, but seriously, it makes the atmosphere on game days in Lawrence easily as bad if not worse that what people experience at Baylor.
It also happens to be just 71 people shy of being the smallest stadium in the Big 12 as well. The tailgating as a result of the stadiums location isn't really anything to write home about either.
Sure you'll find one street where tents and students are eating tailgate food, drinking beer, and playing cornhole, but there's nothing that stands out about the atmosphere at all. But, hey, at least they actually have some tailgating tradition to speak of right?
Besides for students and alumni alike it's basketball that really gets their blood boiling, so it should be expected to be one of the worst football traditions, right? It seems as if it takes winning football, and only winning football to get the Jayhawks fans to actually show up to games as they rank 2nd to last in average attendance at just over 42,000 fans (Baylor was less than 1,000 behind them in last).
Welcome to the big time Horned Frog fans! Unfortunately you find yourselves near the bottom of the Big 12 fanbase barrel. Why?
I will give them one thing, what they may lack for in size, they sure are a passionate bunch and in my book that counts a lot.
Tailgating wise there isn't much of it to speak of around Armon G. Carter stadium, but with a $164 million face lift coming this could change things entirely. What they do have though is a cool, albeit newer, tradition of brick patios for tailgating around the stadium.
What may lack in size for the tailgates is also made up for in the fact that the fans at least have a thing they can call their own in the horned frog symbol they throw up quite often. (as seen below)
Oh, and they have this cheer of "Riff, Ram, Bah, Zoo," so at least they have something other than just the run of the mill stuff you'll see anywhere in the country on game days.
The student section at games is pretty damn good as of late as well and the first season in the Big 12 is sure to add to their rabid nature. It will be interesting to see what happens if they fall on harder times like they have in the past. (I hold contempt for fans and student sections that abandon their team in the down years only to celebrate the good - sorry, you're either a fan or a bandwagon jumper to me)
What's holding them back from being higher then? Well, TCU fans haven't exactly flocked to the stadium or tailgates in droves up until recently. Back just 10 years ago and you would've been lucky to find 5,000 or so people out tailgating before games. Add in a stadium that doesn't hold a ton of people and that hurts as well.
Hey, at least they have longevity on their side as the team has been good during multiple moments in it's history. But in the end, they really don't have what it takes to compete with the rest of the fanbases in their new conference just yet.
7. Texas Tech:
Now admittedly this is where things get a bit tougher to separate because from here on out the rest of the fanbases are pretty damn solid.
Texas Tech may be located in Lubbock, not exactly the easiest of places to get to in the conference, so that's one strike keeping them away from being higher on the list. Then there's Jones AT&T Stadium, or whatever they're calling it these days. It's not exactly the greatest venue in the conference, in fact it's just ho-hum to me.
Tailgating has become a bigger tradition at the school since the team has really gone up in prominence over the past 15 years or so and it's even got a nickname to it. They called it "RadierGate" and admittedly there are some crazy aspects to it, so it's up there on the tailgating scale. It's Texas, so you better believe they're smoking the crap out of some meat products and brisket is always on the menu at these tailgates. Hey, I don't know what person out there isn't a sucker from some good Texas brisket, so count me in!
As for the students, well they tend to have a passionate love of Texas Tech
6. Kansas State:
Bill Synder is simply the man in Manhattan, KS. Hell he even has the stadium named after him. He's also responsible for one of the better fanbases in the Big 12.
Now the stadium itself is nothing to really write home to mom and dad about, but it's the people that fill the stadium on a weekly basis that make it worth coming to visit. They are some good people and they sure know how to have a good time. They also have one of the top student sections in the Big 12 in my opinion. Need evidence? See below.
They also do a great job of really traveling quite well despite the smaller nature of their fanbase.
As for tailgaiting the fans of K-State are lucky because they have two very large lots to do it in surrounding the stadium and the grass areas around that make for a very intimate experience for your crew of folks. That can be a very good, but also a very bad thing depending on who you are around as there's really no escape.
Overall, it's a pretty good crowd with some good tailgating, but it's nothing that will overwhelm you by any means.
5. Iowa State:
From the "Cyclone Power" chant, to the cowbell cheer, to the singing of Sweet Caroline between the third and fourth quarters the ISU student section and fanbase is one of the most underrated in the conference.
It also helps that they have perhaps the best tailgating in the Big 12. The student lot sees cars, buses, even an "EmergenCY" amongst it's ranks lining up 7-8 hours, sometimes even overnight before home games in Ames. If you're looking for a place with friendly people and amazing tailgating going to a game in Ames, IA is your destination (and I'm not just saying that because I went there, I'm saying that because they're one of the few tailgating experiences outside of Wisconsin that I've actually been impressed with).
What holds them back is the fact that they don't have as rabid a following as some of the schools above them and it shows when the stadium struggles to be completely full on some game days. However, attend Farmageddon or a game against the hated Hawkeyes and you'll get the full idea of what it means to have atmosphere in a stadium.
As for the stadium itself, Jack Trice is a nice place to watch a game, but it's nothing special. The additions they've made recently do help the game day experience from what I've been told, but the fact that it's an open ended stadium on both sides of the field really hurts what could be one of the louder stadiums in the conference.
Hey, you also can't go wrong with a student section that does aerobics for entertainment, right?
4. Oklahoma State:
T. Boone Pickens Stadium is my favorite venue in all of the Big 12. It's capacity of just over 60,000 people is large, but the venue has a unique feel to it because the fans can seem literally right on top of the field. It's completely enclosed and that allows for a level of noise that could make it seem like there were 90,000 people in the stands.
Add in one of the most loyal and intimidating student sections in the country and you have all you need to know about why they are in the top four of these rankings. I don't know about you, but I'd sure be intimidated seeing an entire front row of students with large paddles waiting to smack the crap out of the wall in front of them. They also are some of the more creative students in the Big 12 and the "Orange Power" chant rings loud throughout the stadium as well.
What about the tailgating in Stillwater? It's up there, but not quite the same as what you'll get in Ames or Morgantown (which I'll get to in a bit). It's all about the BBQ in Oklahoma and they do it pretty darn well in Stillwater.
So, why isn't it higher on the list? Well, outside of the four block area around the stadium there isn't much happening on game day and up until the past 6 or 7 years there really wasn't a culture surrounding game day as there is now. OK State estimates that just 10 years ago about 3-5,000 people would be tailgating. What kind of crap is that for a Big 12 school?
Loyal fans show up rain, snow, sleet, hail, cold weather, bad teams, whatever... THEY SHOW UP. I'll give them the change in culture and add in the great stadium and atmosphere it creates and they deserve to be in the upper half of the conference to say the least.
3. West Virginia:
I'm not sure if the Big 12 fans are ready for trips to Morgantown, WV or not, but it'll be an experience they soon won't forget upon leaving for home. These guys and gals do it up right from the tailgate to the atmosphere in the stadium and a raucous student section.
In case you missed the ESPN GameDay from there last year, it got so deafening at points you couldn't even hear what the host or analysts were saying. (ya, I know.. darn, we couldn't hear Lee Corso's amazing breakdown of the games, shucks!)
The student section singing "Take Me Home, Country Roads" is a sight Big 12 fans won't want to get used to because it means their team just got beat.
Tailgating in Morgantown is right up there in the Big 12 already and is truly an art form to this state. You'll find just about anything you can imagine under the sun on the grills. Oh, and of course these guys can party it up with the best of them. This video should give you a good idea from a students perspective of what it looks like to tailgate and experience a game day in West Virginia:
The one big drawback? This is a fanbase that runs a bit counter to the rest of the Big 12 in it's couch burning and more vulgar treatment of opposing fans. Without that the Mountaineers may have taken the top spot because the rest of what they have to offer is second to none on game day.
I know, everything is bigger in Texas and that's certainly the case for Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, which houses just over 100,000 for Longhorn games. It's also easily the largest fanbase of any Big 12 school.
The student section is absolutely massive and are one of the top three loudest in the conference. You add in the running of Bevo before a game and you have a great atmosphere despite the massive size of Royal-Memorial Stadium.
Of course the tailgating it great here as well, brisket smoking everywhere you look, a ton of fans mingling amongst themselves, and of course some of the best student tailgating you'll find in the Big 12.
So, why aren't they ranked #1? It's simple... arrogance. The fanbase travels well to be sure, but they are very arrogant about their ways when they do. Fans at just about any other Big 12 school are a blast to hang out with and most will even be friendly enough to invite you to a tailgate or enjoy the bars and such on game day, but mingling is held to a minimum when it comes to 'Horns fans.
However, the final thing that's holding them back is the fact that they try to make up for a lack of creativity in the fanbase with their pure numbers and there's just nothing special about the cheers or anything else they do.
Sure they've got Smokey the Cannon, but they aren't the only ones with a cannon tradition (Iowa State does it too) and while the "Eyes of Texas" can be something to behold it isn't any better than what West Virginia has to offer in terms of songs that stir the heart after or during games.
In the end it's the lack of creativity and the attitude taken by many, not ALL, Texas fans that holds them up from the top spot.
They have one of the biggest fan bases in the country and includes a few superstar musicians and other celebs, just like the Longhorns. What separates them is the atmosphere at Memorial Stadium in Norman.
While it's size isn't as large as Texas' stadium it's more intimate and has more of a true college football feel to it. The tailgating is on par to say the least as well.
In the stadium the student section is easily top two or three with their "Boomer Sooner" chant and the whole replica sooner coming in to the stadium before the player entrance is a spectacle to be sure.
But, what separates them from their Red River Rivals in Texas is the atmosphere they create outside of the stadium and when they travel. The people are welcoming and they tend to really, REALLY know their college football. All you really need to know as to why these guys and gals rank No. 1 can be found by heading to Campus Corner or Lindsey and Jenkins streets – it's where the action begins and following it into Memorial Stadium is a good idea.
I'm sure they're will be a lot of heat over this one, so make sure to leave your comments below and at least try and keep them PG-13!! If you want more of my musing on college football and more check me out on Twitter @andycoppens