A Florida State football game day exudes tradition and excellence. The atmosphere is passionate, hostile at times, and exciting as hell.
A Sold Out Crowd Brings The House Down!
#9 Notre Dame 41, Florida State 38/OT
There’s strategy when finding a Florida State game to go to. The Seminoles are a historic power in college football, but they’ve had better seasons of late. When expectations are not met, FSU fans turn quickly. That leads to squandering crowds and a less-than-exciting atmosphere.
That’s why I chose opening weekend to hit up Doak Campbell Stadium. For one, I was already in the region (ish, Southeastern US) and my preseason analysis of the ‘Noles told me they’d struggle once again.
The stars aligned for this one– the game was held on a rare Sunday (the NFL had yet to start) and Florida State was hosting a top-10 Notre Dame team. Tickets weren’t cheap, but $110 was a fair price to pay for the seat and circumstances. Before kickoff even happened, I got my money’s worth.
Florida State Football Game Day: Arrival
I headed down to Tallahassee after my dad flew home from Charlotte. The seven-plus-hour drive down goes through some truly gorgeous and rural American land. I avoided interstates for the most part, opting to take Georgia state highways through Macon rather than down to Jacksonville. It only adds a few minutes, avoids any rush hour nonsense, and I cannot recommend this route enough.
One thing to know about Florida State game days: parking is an absolute nightmare. If you’re not there ready to go several hours before kickoff, tailgaters snatch up every available spot. Don’t park on the side streets– though signs don’t tell you, your car will be towed to make room for the team busses (I asked an officer). I circled for nearly 40 minutes.
The easiest parking is at the State Capitol building, which cost me a whole $2. It’s a hike and a half, but it’s cheap and traffic out is much easier.
Though Florida State is in the ACC, they party like an SEC school. Tailgates are rowdy, widespread, and exciting. Greek housing is on the walk from the State Capitol to Doak Campbell and you get the full experience of what these parties are like. I didn’t partake this time, but if you get a chance to, be sure to be on your A-game.
There’s plenty of things to see and do around the stadium itself. The most popular photo spot on campus– potentially in the nation– is the Unconquered statue on the southeast side of the stadium. Lines often form so you’ll have to wait your turn, but it’s 100% worth it.
Team walks are a lot of fun and I try to make every one I can– home and away. I’ve seen a lot of great ones along the journey, namely Mississippi State, but Florida State’s is in the elite tier. Hundreds of fans gather to see their team enter the stadium. Among the crowd ready for the team walk was ESPN’s own Marty Smith. He’s a friendly and engaging person who asked about the journey.
I think he’s a fan now?
There’s another statue of note around Doak Campbell Stadium of legendary head coach Bobby Bowden. Bowden sadly passed in the offseason. Flowers and tributes were laid around the statue, a really cool gesture from FSU faithful who watched Bowden lead their Seminoles to national prowess. More on Bobby later.
Florida State Football Game Day: Doak Campbell Stadium
Fun fact, Doak Campbell Stadium is the world’s largest continuous brick structure. It’s a well laid out facility with the most spacious concourses outside of the Big House that I’ve been to. Movement and mobility in the concourse is an often-overlooked but seriously important piece of a stadium. Crowded, log-jammed concourses can lead to frustration and missing game action. For examples of those, see Ohio State and Georgia.
The stadium isn’t this towering behemoth of a facility, so traversing to the “upper decks” isn’t difficult. Like a few other places– Michigan Stadium, the Rose Bowl, Jones AT&T Stadium– Doak Campbell opts to build out rather than up. It gives the whole place a more intimate feel despite it sitting nearly 80,000.
It embodies Florida, with a unique canopy overhang in the southeast end zone. Overall, it’s a polished and practical stadium.
Chief Osceola And The Spear Plant
Florida State has a pair of my favorite traditions: the controversial tomahawk chop and Chief Osceola’s spear plant. FSU’s living mascot and his horse gallop to midfield where the horse rears up on its back legs and Osceola emphatically plants his spear– on freaking fire, mind you– into the midfield logo with an echoing BOOM! from the crowd.
With the movement away from problematic depictions of Native Americans in sports, Florida State’s traditions are constantly under the microscope. Differing opinions exist around the tomahawk chop and its meaning, but the way Native culture is portrayed at Florida State couldn’t be farther from offense. You don’t have fans in headdresses or shouting stereotypical “Indian Chants.” It’s a strong homage and a soft spot for some, but I truly believe it’s done well here.
Florida State Football Game Day: The Atmosphere
Electric. Explosive. Hostile, at times. Tense. Exciting.
I won’t get too specific about the fans, but it was a rambunctious group. FSU fans bleed maroon and they let everybody know that– particularly Notre Dame fans. You could have had me fooled that the FSU-Notre Dame rivalry runs as strong as the FSU-Florida rivalry. There were some seriously hateful words exchanged at this game.
Do not bring your children and I’m not being facetious at all.
What that led to, though, was the loudest game I’ve ever been to. LSU, Penn State, and Texas A&M lay claim to the loudest stadiums in the world and that’s definitely backed from my experiences, but I’ve never heard louder crescendos than at this game.
Running back Jashaun Corbin ripped off a 90-yard touchdown run and the place got so loud, my ears were attempting to dampen the noise. Headache inducing in the best way imaginable.
Florida State lost an absolute heartbreaker in overtime after erasing a massive deficit. McKenzie Milton, former UCF star who hadn’t played football in two years due to one of the worst knee injuries I’ve ever heard about, made a triumphant return. Rarely does the game itself steal the show for me along this journey, but Florida State vs. Notre Dame did.
Everyone in the sports world knows who Bobby Bowden is and the lasting impact he made on college football. This was Florida State’s first game since his passing and it was truly special. A logo commemorating Bowden was put up in the end zone next to my section. They did the standard moment of silence and video recognizing his accomplishments.
However, the halftime show was something else. The FSU band played Amazing Grace while every single one of the 80,000 fans in attendance had their phone flashlight turned on. Chants of “Bobby, Bobby, Bobby” thundered throughout Tallahassee. It was surreal and like out of a movie.
The display was extremely moving and one of the most emotionally touching things I’ve been a part of on Road to CFB. I’ll never, ever forget it.
Game Day Grades
Stadium: A-. Despite it being one of the more recently-built stadiums (1950 is relative, but many of these power schools’ stadiums were built in the 1920s), Doak Campbell Stadium holds a ton of history. It feels smaller than it is, but overall is pretty great. The concourses, as mentioned, are a massive plus.
Tradition: A. Bobby Bowden, the tomahawk chop, Chief Osceola. Florida State in itself is one of the most tradition-rich schools in the country.
Atmosphere: A+. 100%. Perfect score. Ridiculous place to see the right football game.
Tailgating: A. I don’t demand fans keep it classy at tailgates, that’s for the attendees and friends to worry about. This places goes hard and tailgating is widespread. Almost a requirement in Tallahassee.
Fans: C. Passionate is about the only nice word I’ll use for the fans in attendance this game. I’m no saint, but the interactions and things said between FSU fans and Notre Dame fans are the worst things I’ve heard along my journey. And I’ve been in the middle of the Ohio State-Michigan and Arkansas-Texas A&M rivalries. This is where I wish fans would clean it up a bit.
Extracurriculars: D. Tallahassee is too far from the beach to lay claim to and the city itself really lacks anything to do. There’s lots of bars around Florida State, but it just doesn’t feel like a college town. I think the best way to do a Florida State game is to get there early and head out of town after the game.