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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Of all the schools you could choose from, you picked UF - a Southeastern Conference powerhouse at the beginning of Will Muschamp's inaugural season as head coach.

Most SEC schools practically eat and breathe football, and UF is no different. You'll learn all about the carnival come Sept. 3, when Florida Atlantic comes to town, and you're thrown headfirst into the whirlwind of college gamedays.

Gamedays are a tradition that begins before the dew leaves the grass. Most tailgaters start their celebration by building a fortress of folding chairs, pop-up tents, grills and coolers on whatever stretch of grass, dirt or concrete they can find.

If you plan on setting up your own camp, you'll want to get started early, since the prime real estate will be claimed long before kickoff.

There's an art to tailgating, and it will probably take you a few tries to get it right. No tailgate is complete without the essentials: chairs, shade, games, food and drinks. As you'll soon find out, hardcore tailgaters consider "food and drinks" to mean cheap hotdogs and cold beer.

The corn-filled bags flying through the air are part of a popular tailgating game known as cornhole. Those golf balls attached by a stretch of rope? That's called Ladder Ball. If you want to learn to play, just stop by any friendly-looking group and join in - just make sure they're wearing the same colors as you. You don't want to be caught fraternizing with the enemy, do you?

When you've had enough tailgating and you're ready to see heads smash together, migrate toward the stadium around game time - that is, if you have a ticket.

For those of you fortunate enough to be picked in the football season ticket lottery, congratulations!

For the rest of you unlucky souls, if you plan on sitting (standing) on the scorching aluminum seats of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, you'll first need to find a ticket.

You have a few options for scoring one. First, you could cross your fingers and hope some nice fellow throws a ticket your way, but that's probably not going to happen unless you manage to find someone too inebriated to actually make it to the game.

You could always buy a non-student ticket from the ticket window, but who wants to do that?

There are almost always student season tickets that go unclaimed by the pickup deadline. These tickets can be bought for $15 through the GatorZone website beginning at 6 p.m. on the Thursday preceding the game.

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Tickets usually sell out fast for big games, so be sure to log in early.

Gamedays can be confusing for people not accustomed to the way things work. The student section is on the east side of the stadium. The most direct way to get there is to walk up the large ramp at the southeast corner of the stadium, which leads to gates 12-16, any of which you can usually enter through.

Stepping through the gate on your first game day will probably be an experience you won't forget throughout your time at UF.

The roar of a crowd clad in orange and blue, the stadium trembling beneath your feet and the blare of the marching band - The Pride of the Sunshine - will undoubtedly leave a lasting impression.

Seating is assigned according to your ticket, so walk to your designated section. Once you find your seat, be prepared to use your outside voice.

The "Orange and Blue" chant will have the student section competing with the alumni section to see who can be loudest. The alumni section will yell "Blue!" while the students scream back "Orange!"

Other songs and chants include "Here We Go Gators," "Lets Go Gators," "It's Great to be a Florida Gator" and "TD We Want a Touchdown," among others. You can prepare yourself by learning the chants on the GatorZone website at gatorzone.com.

The celebrations won't stop at the end of the fourth quarter, regardless of whether the team wins or loses. Midtown is usually the post-game hangout where fans gather to celebrate the win or drink away the pain of a loss.

With less than two weeks until your first game day as a student, there's only one thing left to do: Win.

 

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