By Ryan Cranford
In honor of Georgia-Florida week (it’s only fitting that I’m smoking a nice cigar in the fall air as I write this, probably left over from so many hopeful victories that didn’t occur), a certain aspect of college football student life can be brought to the forefront…. sneaking into stadiums. Let me shed a little background light for those who may be unaware of this undertaking or may think it a bit juvenile.
I attended UGA from 2004-2008 (4.5 years, by choice of course) and didn’t miss a single GA-FLA game. I actually went 2-2 in my first four years which is something of note these days. I’m not going to delve into the joys of that marvelous time that is fall break when you skip class and spend not soon forgotten days on the SSI beach. We all know what that entails. What I will venture into is a little known facet of surviving a college football season- the sneak in.
As a UGA undergrad there’s a great debate as to who deserves tickets. Let me put it simply… during my time as an undergrad it was pretty damn near impossible to acquire a Florida ticket through the University. These away game allotments were filled up by 6th years, law students, and people who lived in Myers Quad and took 285 hours a semester. If you were an average college student, you were way down on the list. Undoubtedly, you’re going to make the trip to Jax, ticket or not, no questions asked. Now you’re posed with the task of entering the stadium and supporting your beloved Dawgs so you don’t get left out staring at those God forsaken bridges of Jacksonville. Sure, you can pony up the $100 per for tickets, but to your average college student, that’s a months worth of beer money. You’ve already paid for the gas, the 6 guys to a hotel room, food, etc. so you pretty much have one option. Sneak into the stadium. Why give some scalper an extra pack of cigs or the University more money which they’ve already earned? You’re a fan, and your butt has to be in the stadium.
There are various sneak in methods, and I snuck into to Florida three straight years.
There’s the fake ticket stub. There’s the sneak under the gate while the guard doesn’t look. There’s the Mayor’s tailgate. There’s the blend into the fat family going through the gate, know as “splitting the difference”. There’s disguising yourself with the band to get past the gates. There’s the slipping the gatekeeper the $20. The possibilities are endless.
My favorite sneak in story happened in 2006. After a few days on the SSI beach and a liquored up bus ride from the Winn Dixie (those who know, know), a friend and I had to make our way into the stadium. We tried scalping, getting a friend’s dad’s tickets, etc. but to no avail. We selected the sneak in with the band option. Two hours before kickoff, decked in our red and black, we found ourselves tucked in the middle of the tuba section ready to roll in with the band prior to the gates opening. The key here is less is more. Don’t get noticed and just get in the gate.
Everything was going according to plan for my friend and I until one Tuba player, the kind of guy who gives the band a bad name, decided he didn’t like our little charade. As we entered the stadium tucked into the Tuba players who knew the deal and loved it, he decided to call attention to us. Rule #1, don’t call attention to yourself. As people of some sort of authority approached us, liquid courage took over. We were already past the threshold of no return, the main gate. Rather than surrender, we high tailed it for the inner skeleton of the stadium.
After passing security guards going over their detail for the day (remember we’re obnoxiously in red & black) we faked our way into the concourses by talking on our cellphones saying we were meeting our dad at the skybox (2 hours before kickoff of course). Rather than wander in this obvious out of place environment for two more hours we decided to duck into a handicapped/family bathroom until the main gates opened. Lock ourselves in, wait it out an hour, and meet our friends on the inside. Problem was it did not go quietly.
A few tugs on the door handle came along. This was followed by security radios. They were onto something being wrong. My buddy and I decided that if a maintenance man opened the door we’d pool together the $45 dollars we had left over from the Emerald Princess the night before to pay him off. A few more security radio blasts echoed the “doing my final checks of all the corridors,” and we felt like our fate was sealed. “Why the hell is this door locked?” I felt like a caged animal awaiting it’s fate, but with the apprehension of being holed up in an episode of the Walking Dead. Remember, we were staring down jail time, an MIP, and more importantly missing the game and our bus home back to SSI. Somehow by the grace of God, the heat eased off as the crowd started coming in, and we got the best call of our lives…. the main gates had opened up and it was safe to go outside. We eased back into the daylight and wedged our way into the student section. While in the grand scheme of things it wasn’t a great accomplishment, it sort of was. Mission accomplished. That was the only time I’ve ever spent an hour and a half sitting on the floor of a handicapped stall.
I’ve snuck into the following stadiums:
UT – hopped a fence in the 2nd quarter, Bama – walked in with the band, UGA – blended into the crowd, Jacksonville – band, crowd, under a fence, Ga Tech – hopped a small fence. The best one I ever heard was my Auburn buddy who snuck in the MNC in 2010.
I could tell you story after story of buddies of mine sneaking into games all across the southeast, along with some of my own first hand experiences. It’s one of those scenarios you can only get away with during the invincibility that comes with college. But even now, when the ticket situation comes up for GA/FLA, someone will inevitably say, “we could always try the sneak in.”
I know some of you guys pulled the same types of stunts (especially you 80s guys), so I’d love to hear about it in the comments. Lord knows there will be 75-100 students who try and pull the same thing this year.