The Popularity of College Football Grows in the South

Peyton Manning, Brad Hoover, Steve Spurrier, and Vince Young; what do all of these football stars and coaches have in common? They all started their football careers in the South. Football continues to grow as the South’s most popular sport. American high school and college football is a lot more popular down south than it is in the northern parts of the country. “I think going to football games is a lot of fun. I root for Alabama because of Paul “Bear” Bryant and the legend he created down there. In the South, football is a way of life. Whether it is high school, pro, or college, people love their football in the South,” said Western junior Matthew Robertson. According to a 2007 Gallup Poll on Americans’ favorite sport, 43% of people in America love watching football on Saturdays and Sundays. According to the same poll, 48% of southerners watch football as their favorite sport compared to 42% in the Midwest and 40% in the eastern United States. The main question is why? Why do people love football so much in the South compared to other areas of the country? Why do southern college football teams seem to be more successful than those in other regions? What makes it so much more popular in the South than in other areas? One word: Tradition. Tradition stands out among schools and teams in the South, and is a big reason why fans attend these games. The University of Alabama has won 21 SEC titles and a total of 12 national titles; they also have one of the richest football traditions in the entire country. In Tuscaloosa, just about every person you see is a die-hard Alabama Crimson Tide football fan. Everywhere you go, flyers and posters support the Crimson Tide. The last two BCS National Champions were teams from the southern parts of the United States. In 2006, Vince Young roughed up the Southern Cal defense and led the Texas Longhorns to a national title. In 2007, the Florida Gators handed the Ohio State Buckeyes their first and only loss of the season, crowning themselves the national champions. “I think football is popular in the South because of the tradition that so many schools have. For example, you’ve got Smokey at the University of Tennessee, you’ve got the Gator Chomp at the University of Florida, you’ve got the many rivalries such as Auburn-Alabama, Texas-Texas A&M, Georgia Tech-Georgia, it’s games like these that make people in the South enjoy this sport even more,” said Western senior Daniel Nickel. Southern-style football is not only popular in states like Virginia (Virginia Tech), Alabama (Auburn, Alabama), Louisiana (LSU), and Tennessee (UT and Vanderbilt); it is very popular here in Western North Carolina. With the ongoing success of Appalachian State, it makes the Battle of the Jug that much more special to both Mountaineer and Catamount fans. The App-Western rivalries, as well as rivalries among other in-state schools like NC State, UNC, and Wake Forest, have had successful seasons in the past that have helped increase the popularity of the sport in North Carolina. “Football is something a lot of people in the South live by. To some it is almost like a second religion. The main reason behind the sport’s popularity is because people love it, and they love seeing competition,” added Nickel. Some people go to see football for the hard hitting and the entertainment. Others go for the pure enjoyment of the game and the tradition of the teams playing. With barbeque, sweet tea, pig pickings, fried chicken, and Cheerwine being popular in the South, football games also give fans a place where they can have all of their favorite things at one time.