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The Perfect Week

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Dreary November. The dog days of fall are upon us. Bank account's toast. Term paper backlog is growing. Football season went up in flames a month ago. Maybe it's not Ramen-noodles-three-times-a-day bad, but we needed a little pick-me-up, so we lit out on an eight-day fantasy odyssey. Surf a football crowd or two (Cal, Army), some tasty waves (UC Santa Barbara) and the alluring aisles of America's most bizarre meet market (Florida State). So, what's holding you back?

SATURDAY

  Berkeley students flipped their colored cards in the  letter
enlarge
Berkeley students flipped their colored cards into the letter "C" vs. New Mexico State
John W. McDonough/SI

Flippin' Out At Cal

BERKELEY 2:10 p.m.

The closest thing to crop circles in college football? The wacky, old-fashioned card stunts performed by Cal's student section in Memorial Stadium. There's something so leather-helmeted old-school about watching an all-inclusive, masterfully coordinated, low-tech display of student body love for your team.

"Because the team's been playing well [6-1] and because they can see themselves on the Jumbotron," says director of rallies Katie Asselin, "[students] are pretty into it."

Once the rowdy section is finished flipping 2,500 cards, those cards become ... projectiles. "They're supposed to pass them to the end of the row," Asselin says. "But they never do." -- John Walters

SUNDAY

Club Publix

FLORIDA STATE 11:19 p.m.

Ever since Eric Stratton introduced himself to Mrs. Dean Wormer in the produce section of a grocery store in Animal House ("Mine's bigger"), students have understood that there's more than one way to interpret "pickup on aisle 9." At Florida State the local Publix is not only a place to purchase dates but to meet them as well. That's right: In Tallahassee, if you're on the market, you're in the market.

Publix -- or Club Publix, as students (and store employees, for that matter) refer to it -- is hottest on Sunday nights. The supermarket has hired DJs and bands to create a club ambiance and encourage canoodling. You can check out that peach in produce. Inspect beef that isn't U.S.D.A. approved. Did you see the hottie in dairy? I can't believe she's not butter.

Comparison shopping hasn't been this fun since you rode in the cart. Still, FSU students know better than to restrict their foraging to a single chain grocery store. Wouldn't want to put all your eggs in one basket. -- J.W.

MONDAY

Get Your Surf On

UC SANTA BARBARA 8:32 a.m.

Dude, sine waves are, like, so passé. Why take Calc 101 when Geography of Surfing is, like, so much more chill? UC Santa Barbara, perched on ocean-kissed cliffs, actually offered that course last spring. The syllabus included such rigorous assignments as "watching and documenting what goes on in certain areas of the beach." Imagine the midterm questions: "Beachheads of Southern California versus Northern California: compare and contrast." Needless to say, there were lines past the sand dunes to enroll. Of course, wouldn't you rather have homework that included SPFs and sex wax? As a bonus you can hit some of SoCal's tastiest waves, at Goleta Beach, right after learning about them. -- Jaime Lowe

TUESDAY

The Ultimate Rec Center

GEORGIA TECH 4:18 p.m.

Its official name, Campus Recreation Center, doesn't do justice to Georgia Tech's recently reopened athletic facility. The complex underwent a two-year, $45 million renovation and now sports a leisure pool with a 184-foot waterslide, a lazy river, a 16-person spa, a sun patio, a three-story climbing wall and a café overlooking the pool. Two more floors were added, complete with six basketball courts, exercise studios, a roller-hockey rink and an elevated jogging track. A 15,000-square-foot fitness area features treadmills and elliptical bikes equipped with TV screens and more than 15,000 pounds of weights. For less athletic students hoping to take their minds off midterms and finals, the center also offers a game room where you can watch a 50-inch big screen while playing air hockey, foosball or Ping-Pong. -- Arash Markazi

  The Grotto at the University of Notre Dame
The Grotto at the University of Notre Dame
Todd Rosenberg

Late Night at the Grotto

NOTRE DAME 9:57 p.m.

716 candeles is not the title of a misguided John Hughes sequel but rather the approximate sum of the flickering flames that give Notre Dame's Grotto its golden glow. Modeled after its namesake in Lourdes, France (where in 1858 Mary reportedly appeared to a peasant girl), the Grotto is a refuge for reflection, a sanctuary of serenity on campus. Whereas certain religious totems in South Bend have accrued a pigskin punch line (Touchdown Jesus, anyone?), the Grotto remains sacrosanct. Irish coaches from Knute Rockne to Lou Holtz have knelt before or lit a candle inside the 108-year-old shrine. -- J.W.

WEDNESDAY

Volleyball's Mecca

NEBRASKA 7:33 p.m.

The Nebraska Coliseum is an architectural marvel in the middle of the Lincoln campus, with its Roman columns and a regal bearing echoing an earlier time. For visiting women's volleyball teams, however, the Coliseum is also a house of horrors. Since the Nebraska program began, in 1975, the Cornhuskers have posted 12 undefeated seasons and compiled a 413-30 record at home. They have lost only three times to conference opponents in the Coliseum, which seats 4,030 fans, and have qualified for 22 consecutive NCAA tournaments. As of Sunday the No. 4 Huskers were working on a home sellout streak of 49 games.

"Winston Churchill said, 'In the beginning we build buildings. In the end we are shaped by the buildings we live in,'" former coach Terry Pettit said. "I think the Coliseum shapes Nebraska volleyball." -- A.M.

Extreme Makeout

STANFORD 11:44 p.m.

Freshmen girls, beware the full moon! Stanford devotes one night each fall to the practice of seniors swapping spit with the young. The tradition dates back generations, when a group of senior men lined up in the middle of the Quad opposite a group of freshmen women and initiated them with a sweet little kiss. Full Moon on the Quad has morphed into an all-campus party that includes streakers, music and general insanity. The actual kissing is a mono outbreak in waiting: Three thousand students go from bookworms to kissing sluts. The Tree mascot boasted last February: "I once kissed 681 girls in a night." -- Maggie Haskins

THURSDAY

The Kollege Klub

WISCONSIN 11:47 p.m.

June 25-28, 2000: The NFL's mandatory rookie symposium in Carlsbad, Calif., is attended by all, with the notable exception of Heisman-winning Badgers running back Ron Dayne. Dayne's Kollege Klub attendance that same weekend: also near perfect.

There's little that can keep a Badger from his beer, and the lineup of jock suds-guzzlers at the KK -- which in 2002 was named the second-best college bar in America by Playboy -- runs as deep as one of its never-ending lines. NHL All-Star Chris Chelios and actor D.B. Sweeney are two prominent alums who still troll the dimly lit joint. There are two lines outside: an Average Joe line and a VIP line, where local "celebs" and willing bribers get fast-tracked. The bar sells fingerless drinking gloves for $2. And after a big game, the KK is still the best place to spot Badgers players. If you can get in. -- Adam Duerson

FRIDAY

The Taj Mahal of Arenas

NORTH DAKOTA 9:05 p.m.

The center of the college hockey universe is located in Middle of Nowhere, U.S.A. A diamond in the rough, wind-whipped steppes of the Roughrider State, Ralph Engelstad Arena is an opulent shrine to the North Dakota hockey team, which has won seven national championships and sent 59 players to the NHL. Few pros, however, enjoy a home more extravagant than the Ralph, a $100 million complex that was completed in 2001. Every one of its 11,400 leather-lunged spectators sits in a leather chair with armrests cut from Valley Forge cherry wood. "We've had kids walk in and stand at center ice and commit right there," former coach Dean Blais said. "And that was before it was even finished." -- A.M.

  Midnight yell practice
Texas A&M football fans followed the command of the yell leader during yell practice the night before the game.
Greg Nelson

Midnight Yell Practice

TEXAS A&M, Midnight

Allen Iverson wouldn't last five minutes in College Station, where under the Friday night lights as many as 20,000 Texas A&M students, fans and alumni gather at midnight before every home game to practice yelling. Yes, yelling. Midnight Yell, which originated in 1931, begins with the singing of the war hymn and the school song, then moves on to the practicing of cheers -- designed to get in the heads of the opponents -- for the next day's game. At the end of the night the stadium lights are dimmed and Aggies fans are asked to "mug down" with (i.e., kiss) their dates. Those yelling stag hold up lighters to find other lonely flames, thus ensuring a date for the game. -- M.H.

SATURDAY

Cadets Gone Wild

ARMY 12:37 p.m.

By the time an Army football game kicks off at West Point at 1 p.m. -- or, as the locals know it, 1300 hours -- Cadet Robert Sedlak has been up for about seven hours. He does not take part in a college student's typical pregame festivities. After getting up at 0615, Sedlak, a senior, and his peers line up in formation at 0655 before marching to an assigned-seat, manners-monitored breakfast. At 0730 he gets in an hour of weightlifting before stealing a 30-minute nap. Then, at 1000, in full military dress and a plume, the saber-toting Sedlak marches in the Cadet Review parade on the Plain with the rest of A Company, Second Regiment before the game. All this is done with superiors scrutinizing every misstep: grass clippings on shoes, a hat not parallel to the ground, a pleat not properly ironed. Says Sedlak, "We don't count Saturday morning as part of the weekend."

But once inside the hallowed gates of Michie Stadium, which stands majestically, inspirationally at the crown of a hill like the famous American flag atop Iwo Jima, Sedlak & Co. are cut loose and are free to go wild. "Army games are a time when no one is inspecting your uniform," says Cadet Jason Hood, a junior. "You aren't standing at attention while someone is telling you what's wrong with you."

Two cadet emcees, known as the Mike Men, gyrate atop a platform to Noreaga's Nothin' in front of the student section as the rest of the cadets, sporting aviators and wide grins, bump along. Who knew Army football games were basically an MTV spring break party, albeit with a 4-to-1 guy-to-girl ratio? Duty, honor, country? More like Do, the, Rock-away. "As a plebe [freshman], I don't ever get to leave campus -- ever," explains Cadet Trenin Spenser.

Apparently military precision doesn't translate to a precision aerial assault on the football field. Last season Army had the worst record (0-13) of any I-A team, but the off-season hiring of former NFL head coach Bobby Ross has led to a recent about-face. Against Cincinnati on Oct. 9, Army snapped the nation's longest losing streak at 19 games with a 48-29 victory. The following week the Black Knights beat South Florida 42-35, laying claim to their first two-game winning streak in seven years.

Though the quality of football is improving, the actual game is somewhat of a sideshow for these troopers. During the Oct. 2 TCU game the cadets were more amped about dog-piling, tossing each other in the air or cheering the pregame tradition of four paratroopers floating down to deliver the game ball. After every Army touchdown, cadets blitzed out of the stands onto the sidelines, as if securing weekend passes, to do push-ups.

Throughout the game, plebes are ordered by upperclassmen to troll the visitors section for "Army fans," a.k.a. girls who might bite on the line "Wanna sit with my commander?" One willing to be converted was Meghann Dotson, in town for the game, who said without a hint of bashfulness, "Hey, you know they're disciplined and can hold a full-time job. And with men in uniform there's definitely some sex appeal."

Another coerced coed, Melissa Moen, added, "We saw the cadets having so much fun, so when they asked me and my girlfriends to come over, we were psyched. We thought they'd make fun of us, but they have been perfect gentlemen. The whole thing is kinda cool, kinda funny."

While the U.S. Military Academy motto "Duty, honor, country" is firmly entrenched, "Kinda cool, kinda funny" kinda has a nice ring to it. -- M.W.

Rolling Toomer's Corner

AUBURN 4:59 p.m.

It's not the "world's best lemonade" at Toomer's Drug Store that keeps 'em coming back to the junction of College Street and Magnolia Avenue. After their football team wipes out an opponent at Jordan-Hare Stadium, Tigers fans immediately storm the famous intersection, armed with rolls of toilet paper handed out at stadium exits, for the rolling of Toomer's Corner. Call it Charmin's March.

It takes eight workers from the school's environmental services department five hours to de-streusel the area, at a cost of $3,500 -- a small price to pay compared with the cost of losing games in this football-crazy state. In 2002 students even rolled the Corner to celebrate NCAA sanctions against rival Alabama. -- Matthew Waxman

Issue date: November 4, 2004

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