They come from every corner of campus, cities around Texas and all across the nation.
They bring their lawn chairs, tents and grills – some even roll up in RVs. But the one thing they all bring is their Aggie spirit.
At Texas A&M University, football is more than just a game and the Aggies don’t just tailgate, they throw one of the best tailgate parties in the South, according to Southern Living magazine.
In College Station, Gameday starts with a capital “G” and this year, the excitement has reached a fever pitch as the Aggies kick off their inaugural season as a member of the Southeastern Conference (SEC).
Aggie students are known nationally as one of the most dedicated fanbases in college sports and, by tradition, are called the 12th Man because they stand throughout every game to show their willingness to step in and play for the team, if needed.
Sports Illustrated recently rated Aggie Gameday as the best in the nation saying, “…few venues are more hostile to opponents than the maroon bowl of Kyle Field, where the eardrums of visiting players are under constant assault from the Aggies' 12th Man – the nation's best-drilled student body.”
It was this devotion that won Texas A&M the ESPN 2012 College GameDay online voting contest and the honor of starring in an ESPN College GameDay commercial that will air during the network’s college football games this season.
ESPN cameras came to Kyle Field to shoot the ad this past July 31, and with yell leaders before them, thousands of dedicated Aggies took to the stands to show the nation what being a college football fan is all about.
But before tens of thousands of maroon-clad supporters make their way into Kyle Field to root for an Aggie win, fans surround the stadium in the hours leading up to the game and throw a pregame party few colleges can rival.
Southern Living magazine’s list of the Top 20 Schools With The Greatest Pregame Parties places Texas A&M among “The Traditionalists,” schools renowned for game-day rituals.
It all starts the night before the game with a unique tradition called Midnight Yell Practice, the Aggie version of a pep rally, a tradition that dates back to 1913.
Yell leaders and the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band lead the 12th Man into Kyle Field at midnight to sing the fight song and practice yells (Aggies don’t cheer, they yell). At the end, the stadium lights go out and Aggies kiss their dates. For away games, Midnight Yell is held two nights before a game at the Corps Arches on the quad, and again the night before the game in the opponent’s city.
When the sun rises on Gameday, droves of tailgaters have already set up camp and thousands more stream in during the pre-game hours.
With the stands of Kyle Field in view, revelers are all around, cooking up good Texas barbecue, pouring cold drinks and getting pumped up to watch the Fightin’ Texas Aggies “Beat the Hell Outta” the opposing team.
Adjacent to the stadium, three-and-a-half hours before kickoff, Aggie Fan Zone, a pedestrian-only area, opens to football fans and the entire community, offering concessions, kids’ games, contests, live media broadcast booths, displays, souvenirs and more. The yell leaders conduct a special yell practice just for kids, and current and former Texas A&M athletes are on site to sign autographs and pose for photos.
Two hours and 40 minutes before game-time marks the start of the Spirit Walk, when, to the crowd’s delight, the football team arrives and walks to the locker room.
And 90 minutes before kickoff, a spectacle sure to give any Aggie chills, is the Corps March-in, when the Corps of Cadets steps off the quad to the boom of the Parsons Mounted Cavalry cannon, and with fans lining the route, marches to Kyle Field led by the Aggie band.
With hopes of becoming the next Aggie Gameday tradition, Tailgate Guys, a full-service, event management company, joins the fray, providing turn-key, reserved tailgating packages. The company provides all the tailgate party equipment and set-up, including tents, tables, chairs, coolers, catering and more, then break it all down at game time.
Parker Duffey, Tailgate Guys president, says he’s grateful for the opportunity to join such a legendary game-day experience. “Texas A&M has long been recognized as one of the most respected programs in the country,” he says, “and we saw a real opportunity to welcome fans into the fold of the SEC by introducing them to a whole new way to experience game days.”
With an increase in tailgating over the past several years, the university has developed a plan for responsible tailgating that governs the use of barbecue grills and generators, helps motorists with driving and parking in the area, determines alcohol-free zones and more.
From the first yells at midnight all the way to game’s end, Aggie Gameday is unlike any other college football experience – full of excitement, tradition and Aggie pride. For the scoop on Gameday in Aggieland, including schedules and stats, press conferences and interviews, tailgating rules and much more, visit Gameday Central.