My 92,000 best friends

By Hunter Ford

I’ve been to movies alone, been out to lunch alone, but never have I been to an Alabama football game alone. Last weekend, I drove to Tuscaloosa by myself, but when I got to Bryant-Denny I watched the game with more than 92,000 of my best friends.

Going to an Alabama game is so much different than it used to be. Bryant-Denny used to be a 50,000-seat bowl. Now it is more like an amusement park, with gi-normous television screens, wrap around scoreboards and fancy new food concessions.

I’ve often wondered how large the stadium could be and still have sell out crowds. I also wonder how high ticket and concession prices can get before there is some effect on the crowds. The answer, for now, seems to be that the stadium could seat 200,000 and still be filled up and cokes could sell for $12 and people would still buy them.

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Gasoline in most areas of the state was going for more than $4 per gallon, but there were RVs and SUVs everywhere.

For an interesting break down of the cost of major college football visit this site:

I was shocked to find out that a Coke in a souvenir plastic cup cost $6. A barbecue sandwich was going for $8 and hotdogs were $4.

I spoke to some of the vendors selling T-shirts and hats outside of the stadium. A couple of them had complaints about the new parking and tailgating set up. They said it affected the traffic around their tents and was hurting sales.

Perhaps I’ll do some further research on this at another time.

For now, my lingering thoughts are about the great atmosphere in Tuscaloosa on game day. If there are 92,000 people inside the stadium, I would venture to say there are about 50,000 people who go to Tuscaloosa on game day simply to be part of the scene. It looks as though many fans never leave the comfort of their RV set-ups.

I left the Western Kentucky game at halftime, with the Tide leading comfortably 31-7. I passed by hundreds of cozy fans, eating, drinking and making merry by the light of a flat screen TV hooked up to a satellite on a roving condo.

There are also many Tide fans that rent or own actual apartments or “game condos.”

Some of these condos are literally a stone’s throw from the stadium.

Mark Ezell, a lawyer from South Alabama, is one of those condo dwellers. For the past couple of seasons, I have made a point to stop by Ezell’s camp. He always has several coolers full of cold drinks and a wide variety of food. It certainly helps defray the cost of the in-stadium concessions. Thanks to Mr. Ezell and his family.

Also, Ezell’s compound is a great place to meet some ex-Tide players.

Wes Neighbors, an All-SEC center from 1983-86 was tailgating with his dad Billy. Mr. Billy played tackle for Bear Bryant’s 1961 national championship team and later in the AFL and NFL for the Boston Patriots and Miami Dolphins.

A fan asked Mr. Billy for a Bear Bryant story.

“This kind of game would p*** him off,” he said, referring to the weak opponent. “If we didn’t win by three or four touchdowns, he’d have us out there practicing afterwards.”

Walking around the stadium, I also encountered former Tide great David Hannah, a member of the 1978 national champions and Tyrone Prothro the great receiver whose college career was cut short by a brutal leg injury.

Anyway, I took a camera with me and I think you’ll agree the stadium is beautiful inside and out. Check out the photo gallery.