SE: Bowl Games a One-of-a-Kind Experience for K-State Fans

Within about half an hour of receiving the email, Matthew Rivera, Ashley VanGilder and Sam Miller — three people with little in common — made a choice based on one similarity: their love for K-State football. 

After K-State topped Baylor two weeks ago to become bowl eligible for the seventh-straight season, pre-order opportunities for the postseason became available to Wildcat fans. 

Rivera, one of the first three people to place a pre-order, grew up Junction City and attended K-State for three years before taking a job in the banking industry. He now lives in Dallas, Texas, and is still a season-ticket holder for K-State football, which he’s traveled to watch play in its last four bowl games. It’s a streak he showed zero hesitation in extending. 

“I got the email and I just figured I wanted to jump on the opportunity. It was probably within the first 30 minutes,” said Rivera, who enjoys the unique passion within K-State’s fan base. “To me it’s about, like Coach Snyder says, it’s family. When you see it on the stadium and you see it everywhere you go, it’s that unity. I always wear my K-State polo when I travel for work and I’ll have people who go by and say, ‘Go Cats.’ It’s that feeling that we’re all family and we always stay well connected.”

VanGilder and her husband both graduated from K-State, where they played in the Pride of Wildcat Land Band. Both attended a pair of bowl games with the K-State marching band, a tradition they have continued within their family.   

“My husband really wanted to go to the bowl game. He enrolled as soon as it showed up on his email or Twitter feed… probably within the first couple of minutes of it being announced,” said VanGilder, a second-generation K-State graduate who teaches in Westmoreland. “It’s a one-of-a-kind experience. The camaraderie you have there with the other fans, as well the chance to maybe travel somewhere that you’ve never traveled to before, is really worth the experience.” 

For Miller, who grew up in Indiana but followed his parents’ footsteps to K-State, it’s something he’s never been able enjoy until this season. 

“It’s just something that I haven’t experienced and something not every school gets the chance to experience,” he said. “I just wanted to be part of that.” 

Pre-ordering bowl tickets can be accomplished a few different ways, all of which are explained at K-State’s bowl game page of its website. Ahearn Fund members earn priority points for preordering for the bowl at which the Wildcats play. Any fans who preorder tickets can do so for all of K-State’s possible bowl destinations or only select games, and they will only be charged if the Wildcats are selected to one of the bowls they chose.  Ticket preorders that are submitted to the ticket office by Friday, December 2 receive seating priority ahead of any tickets that are purchased following the bowl announcement on Sunday.

Wherever the Wildcats end up, thousands of fans like Rivera, VanGilder and Miller will follow. K-State has averaged just less than 20,000 fans per game in 18 bowl trips, including at least 35,000 in six games. 

VanGilder was at one of those six games, when K-State beat Syracuse at the Fiesta Bowl in 1997 in front of 45,000 Wildcat fans, which is still a school record for bowl attendance. 

“There was actually very little orange in the stands. Most of the fan base was purple,” she recalled. “There was a tiny little spot of orange with just this whole ocean of purple in the stadium, which was pretty amazing.” 

Rivera started his bowl experiences with the Wildcats’ third trip to Fiesta Bowl, a 2013 matchup with Oregon with 40,000 K-State fans in attendance. This passionate following continues to impress him. 

“It amazes me every time I go to an away game or a bowl game is how many K-State fans and alumni are there,” he said. “It’s really neat to get everyone else’s perspective. They’re kind of shocked when they see that much purple. Even on the flights, it’s pretty cool to talk to different people who realize what K-State’s all about when they see how many of us travel to support our football team. It’s a really cool experience.” 

Miller, making his first bowl trip, said he’s eager to join the club. 

“I’m looking forward to interacting with other K-State fans from around the country. I know we have people from around the country who come to our home games, but it’s definitely a wider range of fans that go to bowl games,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed the people at K-State and how pretty much everyone at the school rallies around the team. I’m from a college town and that’s certainly not the case with the team where I’m from, so it’s just been a unique experience.” 

The experience can be made easier, said Terin Walters, Director of Development Programs and Travel at the K-State Alumni Association, by taking advantage of the Alumni Association’s bowl travel package

“The Alumni Association bowl travel package is the ideal experience for any K-State fan. Our goal is to take care of all of the details – big and small – so that our fans can relax and enjoy the camaraderie of attending a bowl game with their fellow K-Staters,” she said, adding that exclusive experiences and opportunities come with the bowl package. “Fans that attend bowl games leave with so many memories in addition to just attending the game. The pep rally is a great experience, and getting a chance to listen to Coach Snyder and the team captains express their appreciation for the fans reminds us what K-State is all about. The excitement of the players as they see the sea of purple in attendance makes it all worthwhile.”