College fans justify spending on tailgating, tix Print
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Monday, 08 September 2008 12:04
NCAAF Headline News

 STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) -Like the coach of a team losing at halftime, college football fans banged around by high gas prices are changing their game plans.
They are cramming into sedans and leaving the RVs at home, speeding by hotels where they stayed in the past and, in some cases, making the hard decision to go to fewer games.
On a big weekend of college football, The Associated Press found fans from the parking lots of Happy Valley to Eugene, Ore., who said they are making concessions yet determined to indulge their passion.
As rain fell Saturday in central Pennsylvania before No. 17 Penn State beat Oregon State, sales executive Dan Wilhelm huddled under a tent next to his SUV after a three-hour drive from Pittsburgh.
His friend and fellow Penn State alum, Bick Remmey, had organized a party in the next parking spot. Burgers sizzled on the grill, while the table featured a commemorative Joe Paterno plate from the 1970s.
their big summer vacation - typically to a spot like Hilton Head, S.C. - to be there. ``It just felt like we knew football season was coming, and we knew that was one 12-week vacation,'' Wilhelm said.
``You don't cut this,'' he added.
With its spacious lots and overflow parking in grass fields, Happy Valley is a mecca of Saturday tailgating. More than 100,000 fans pack Penn State's enormous stadium every home game - and thousands more without tickets are happy just to be able to hang out at the tailgates.
Greg Stanton and Neil Plotkin made the 300-mile drive from northeast Maryland to State College on Saturday. Stanton, a 1992 Penn State graduate, took his sedan and left the RV at home to save on gas.
Stanton and Plotkin didn't set up picnic tables or camp chairs. Instead, the two security systems workers ate and drank out of the trunk the car.
``We basically let the wife and children not eat for a week so we can do this,'' joked Plotkin, who was attending his first Penn State game.
In Auburn, Ala., college football Saturdays are a way of life. But even some fans of the No. 9 Tigers are weighing whether to go to every game - especially if the opponent is from outside the tough Southeastern Conference.
High school teacher Brian Grantham, drove four hours from Foley, Ala., in a camper-trailer to watch Auburn beat Southern Miss, but he said he might skip out on other non-SEC games.
``I do a little more planning and have to think about things a little more,'' Grantham said.
John Schneller, of McDonough, Ga., drove about two hours to get to the Auburn game. Giving up tickets is a no-no - his wife is an Auburn alum.
``Even with gas prices so high, you've still got to have some sort of entertainment,'' he said. ``Spread over three months, this is still the best entertainment you can find.''
But they're cutting back by driving home after games instead of spending the night at a hotel. Schneller said hotel rates have just become too expensive.
For many fans, the football weekend is about more than just about the game. It's a brief respite from the everyday worries of balancing the checkbook and paying the bills.
Mike Swaim, a lawyer from Salem, Ore., attends a couple of Ducks games each year with his wife, Kellie. He paid $3.60 per gallon to fill up for the hourlong trip to Eugene to watch No. 16 Oregon trounce Utah State last week.
``If it's food and rent vs. football tickets, obviously food and rent takes precedent,'' Swaim said. ``But when you're talking about discretionary spending, these games are the moments you look back on and tell your kids about. So it's worth it.''
In Clemson, S.C., insurance agent Danny Marcengill, cut back his ticket allotment this year from five to three before the season started, saving him some cash.
emson beat the Citadel last week, with the disappointment of his beloved Tigers' season-opening loss to Alabama still fresh in his mind. He said a victory then would have erased any lingering concerns about the cost of traveling to the game.
``Well, if they had won last week,'' he said, ``I wouldn't have thought about it quite as much.''
Others said the cost of gas didn't matter one bit - they were determined to root on their favorite teams regardless.
Eric Linde, a construction company executive, showed up at Penn State on Saturday in a massive RV - complete with satellite hookup and a flat-screen TV mounted on the outside of the trailer, shielded by an overhang.
Driving around the gas-guzzling RV gets costly, he said, ``but yet ... there's no consideration that we're not coming to another game because of fuel prices.''
A grill swings out from the rear of his trailer, with the words ``Serious Tailgaten'' emblazoned on the cabinet doors. Linde's son-in-law, Steve Atcavage, hammed it up with friends and family as he took charge of the sausages cooking on the fire.
``People find ways to adapt,'' he said. ``Life is too short.''
AP Sports Writers John Zenor in Auburn, Ala.; Anne Peterson in Eugene, Ore.; and Pete Iacobelli in Clemson, S.C., contributed to this report.

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