College Football Bucket List: One Group’s Mission To See It All

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I think we can all say that there are certain things we’d like to knockoff the bucket list, whether it be a vacation spot or driving a Ferrari 150 mph on a racetrack.

But for one group from Pennsylvania, it was about visiting some of the best College Football venues around the country. This year they are in Auburn.

Fans tailgate on the grounds of Samford Hall prior to a football game between the Auburn Tigers and the Alabama Crimson Tide. (Photo by Chip Dillard/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

I just so happened to be walking through the lobby of my hotel in Auburn when I noticed a gentleman wearing an Ole Miss hat, joined by his son and another guy wearing a Penn State visor.

I would soon learn that they were apart of a group called the ‘Garden Village College Football Tour’. Yes, you read that right. As I struck up a conversation with the three of them, I listened to a story that struck a chord inside of me. These guys were all about living life now and not waiting around for future opportunities.

I was hooked from the first story that was told about a trip to Stillwater, but we’ll get back to that.

The group consists of Tommy Kearns, TJ Kearns (younger son), John Kearns (the brother) and James Perry (The Neighbor).

It started back in 2014 as they gathered around a television to watch the Auburn vs. Alabama game, wondering what it would be like to experience different college football venues. As the conversation continued, all it took what TJ saying one thing.

“Let’s stop talking about it and just do it.”

It was on, as the foursome discussed which atmosphere they would love to take in. As I was told by one guy in the group, Tommy was the travel agent, spending hours every year booking hotels and travel a year in advance.

One trip stood out the most compared to others, which was the trip to Stillwater for the Oklahoma vs. Oklahoma State game, referred to as ‘Bedlam’.

The 'Garden Village College Football Tour' invades Ole Miss
The ‘Garden Village College Football Tour’ invades Ole Miss

Come to find out, Tommy reserved his hotel over a year in advance, but he didn’t know the exact date of the game. So, being pretty savvy, he decided to book a hotel near campus for four different weekends in December of 2018, a year before the game in November of 2019 at a price that would infuriate others without a doubt.

Once they found out the date of the game, Tommy called the hotel and canceled the other weekends, leaving the hotel guest agent befuddled at how he got the room at such a low price.

“They were shocked, because the hotel is used for alumni events and the price I got it at floored them. They actually asked me how I got this room so cheap, so I told them, as I cancelled the other weekends.”

We sat around and chatted about other venues the crew had taken in over the years. But, the secret to all of this planning is that each member gets to pick where they’re going the next year.

The ‘Garden Village College Football Tour’ crew at Auburn vs. Penn State

It worked out perfectly this season, with them being from Pennsylvania and having a few ties to Penn State. But the work that’s put in, just to enjoy the pageantry of College Football is astounding.

These group of guys are not wasting a moment to experience these traditions together.

The list of trips they’ve taken made me jealous, but most of all it was amazing to see the the youngest of the group, TJ, discuss it all.

Whether it be visiting Clemson, taking in the majestic Notre Dame campus or enjoying ‘The Grove’ at Ole Miss, these group of guys are not wasting a moment to experience these traditions together.

Spending the night in New Orleans, then taking in the tailgating at LSU was a trip that stood out to the group.

The 'Garden Village College Football Tour' invades Clemson
The ‘Garden Village College Football Tour’ invades Clemson

Unfortunately, COVID knocked two years off the ‘Garden Village College Football Tour’, but they’ve kicked things off again with this trip to Auburn.

Throughout our conversation, I kept looking at the younger one of the group, TJ, watching his facial expressions as he discussed this new tradition. Having been there before with my dad, visiting different schools around the country, I could understand his excitement. But there was one more aspect of these trips that somewhat shocked me.

One thing that stood out to me during our conversation was something Tommy said about tailgate scenes in the South.

“In the North, you might have 100,000 people spread out to 100,000 tailgates. But in the South, it’s 100,000 people at one tailgate. It’s the southern hospitality and everyone just being so nice and welcoming.”

The ‘Garden Village College Football Tour’ this past Saturday in Auburn

This wasn’t a shot at folks back home, but I think he was amazed at the generosity they’ve experienced during this tour that has lasted over seven years now.

Every game they’ve been to so far, wearing the home school colors was a top priority.

Not only would they travel to these venues, but dressing the part was important.

Even during their visit to Notre Dame, Tommy looked at the group and said ‘We should’ve worn kilts,’ while he immediately got on his phone searching the area for the outfit.

Turns out the kilts weren’t to be found, but the experience was one they wouldn’t forget.

The 'Garden Village College Football Tour' invades Notre Dame
The ‘Garden Village College Football Tour’ invades Notre Dame

As we started to wrap up the conversation, I wondered where they would go next. Turns out that it’s TJ’s (younger son) pick for next season, so I asked him what the choices were.

“Well, it’s down to Texas A&M or Alabama,” TJ noted.

I can promise you one thing, the ‘Garden Village College Football Tour’ resident travel agent, Tommy, will have those hotels booked by the end of the weekend in Auburn.

There’s nothing like college football and chatting with this group about their bucket list of trips, I’d say they feel the same way.

Trey Wallace Previews Penn State @ Auburn on Don’t @ Me:

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Written by Trey Wallace

Trey Wallace is the host of The Trey Wallace Podcast that focuses on a mixture of sports, culture, entertainment along with his perspective on everything from College Football to the College World Series.

Wallace has been covering college sports for 15 years, starting off while attending the University of South Alabama. He’s broken some of the biggest college stories including the Florida football “Credit Card Scandal” along with the firing of Jim McElwin and Kevin Sumlin. Wallace also broke one of the biggest stories in college football in 2020 around the NCAA investigation into recruiting violations against Tennessee football head coach Jeremy Pruitt.

Wallace also appears on radio across seven different states breaking down that latest news in college sports.

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  1. Very Cool !!! I know a number of Father/Sons who do annual MLB Stadium trips – different city each year. They start when the son is in his early teens and keep going well into his adulthood. Neither would ever consider NOT going each year.

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