The days are getting shorter, temperatures are dropping, and there has been an exponential increase in Kirk Herbstreit’s television appearances. This can only mean one thing. It’s college football season.

The Miami Hurricanes and Florida Gators officially kicked off the season last Saturday in Orlando with a 24-20 disaster that seemed like neither team really wanted to win. Feleipe Franks finally has a pair of properly fitting sleeves and the Canes debuted yet another sweet turnover chain but both teams are still floundering as they look for the championship status of yesteryear.

I happened to be at that game, standing in the lower corner of the poetically named Camping World Stadium to watch the two long-time rivals try and hand the game to each other. Like the 66,542 other fans in attendance, I breathed a sigh of sweet relief when the final pass of Hurricanes QB Jarren Williams’ final pass fell short to seal the victory for the Gators and send us all home.

Why did I spend an entire Saturday driving to-and-from Orlando to watch a football game? It’s not because I have any rooting interest in either of these teams. It’s just because finding my way in is something I thrive at.

College football was my first great sporting love. Growing up, the distance that it took to drive to games and the prohibitive cost of tickets usually made attending more than one game a year an impossible task; that all changed my senior year of high school.

It was 2014 and my Clemson Tigers were coming to Athens for the first time since 2002 and I desperately wanted to go. Unfortunately for me, tickets were sold out and going for around $500 on secondary websites.

Then, a teacher of mine saved the day with some stellar advice.

“Just show up with a pocketful of cash and you’ll find something cheap,” he said. “If there’s one thing I can promise you it’s this: there are always tickets.”

I made my way over to Athens with the previously mentioned pocketful of cash and wandered onto campus nervous, somewhat afraid, and slowly cooking in the August heat. On the bridge just outside of Sanford Stadium I found a very shady man holding up a very crumpled ticket and (stupidly) gave him $100 that I had earned $7.25 at a time slaving over a fryer at Zaxbys.

The ticket worked, and despite the Clemson loss my life had forever changed.

In the half-decade since that day I have found my way into over 40 stadiums and countless games from Miami to Pasadena, Dallas to Ann Arbor.

Although you can find tickets at any sporting event or concert, college football remains the most pure place to do it.

It’s one of the few sports untouched by digital tickets and where you can find a rich alum willing to hand a spare ticket to a poor college kid at a steep discount because the person who was going to use it had something come up.

So if you’re looking to catch a game at Sanford this season, don’t let the dizzying cost of a ticket stop you from giving it a shot. You might just find someone whose friend got a little too ‘preoccupied’ in downtown Athens to make it in with them.

Mason Cantrell is the sports reporter intern for The Oconee Enterprise. Opinions expressed are those of the writer.

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