Best SEC game-weekend experience: ‘Tailgate trains’ make No. 10 special


10-carolinaIf you’ve covered a league long enough, you age in such a way if affects your feelings about geography. In my early years of covering South Carolina games, we went out in an area called Five Points. Then when we realized Five Points is for young people, we moved on to an area called The Vista.

Both are terrific and among the reasons I really like Columbia, S.C., which comes in at No. 10 on my list of the best SEC game-weekend experiences. No. 11 on my list is a must-visit place if you like music. Here’s No. 12 on my list, and two schools tied for 13th.

Working South Carolina games before and after Steve Spurrier were two different experiences. Spurrier made the Gamecocks an elite program, with three consecutive 11-win seasons. Before that, though, it was slim pickings.

I've done numerous games there, including the 1988 Georgia-South Carolina game, when Joe Morrison's team beat the Bulldogs 23-10 en route to a 6-0 start. Things were looking up in Columbia; the Gamecocks looked to be turning the corner. Morrison's team finished 8-4 that year. But Morrison died of a heart attack the following February and the Gamecocks struggled afterward.

Brad Scott and Lou Holtz had some good moments, but it wasn't until Spurrier got there in 2005 that the Gamecocks became truly relevant.

South Carolina crowds are terrific and Williams-Brice Stadium, which seats 80,000, is legit. But the coolest thing is the Cockaboose Railroad. There are 22 refurbished rail cars, air-conditioned, with full utilities, right at the stadium, and they are the way to tailgate. They go for $300,000 or so, and are privately owned, but pushy broadcasters can invite themselves in from time to time after a game. The Cockabooses rock.

What I liked best: The Vista is a fun area to hang out on Friday night. But the best are the Cockabooses on game day.

Location: Columbia, S.C. (population of about 133,500)
Stadium: Williams-Brice Stadium (80,250)
Enrollment: 32,972

(You can follow Frank Frangie on Twitter @Frank_Frangie)

© 2016, Frank Frangie. All rights reserved.

© 2016, gridironnow.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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