MYRTLE BEACH — Hank Williams Jr. may not be singing any intros, but Grand Strand fans are more than ready for some football.
You wont find area businesses complaining, either.
The 2012-13 season kicks off tonight when South Carolina visits Vanderbilt in a rare season-opening SEC matchup, and continues full force throughout the weekend when Clemson and Coastal Carolina also take the field.
This season, local fans have even more reason to be excited, as Myrtle Beachs own Everett Golson takes over the reins of Notre Dame when he starts his first game as a redshirt freshman Saturday against Navy in Ireland.
That has the prolific passers mother worried about all that time in the air her sons, not the ball.
Im always nervous if hes flying, Cynthia Golson said of her son, who was scheduled to leave South Bend, Ind., on Wednesday for Saturdays game, which will be televised at 9 a.m. on CBS. I wont be able to talk to him until he gets back because he wont have cell service over there.
No, Im not nervous about the game. Im excited for him. Its been a long time since Ive seen Everett play.
The last time Myrtle Beach fans saw the 5-foot-11, strong-armed quarterback, he was guiding the Seahawks to a second state championship in three years. Golson sat out last season while adjusting to college life, but most publications touted that Golson should lead the offense even before last years starter, Tommy Rees, was suspended for a game by coach Brian Kelly.
You can count Golsons high school coach Mickey Wilson as one who will be up early for Saturdays game.
Im pretty excited Ill be ready to go in front of the TV, he said. I know the Myrtle Beach area is excited about him representing us. I think everybody in Horry County is.
Its huge for our area.
College football is pretty huge in general, regardless of the area.
Last season, 37,411,795 fans attended a game in the Football Bowl Subdivision the upper echelon schools who compete at the end of the year for the BCS Championship. Add in the attendance for the lower division schools such as Coastal Carolina, in the Football Championship Subdivision and a staggering 49,699,419 fans attended a football game in 2011-12.
Even more tune in every weekend to catch their favorite team any game, really take the gridiron.
For example, 7.541 million viewers watched Notre Dame take on Michigan in the first night game on Sept. 10 in Ann Arbor, Mich., last season. It was the 7th most watched game ever on ESPN, according to Nielsen ratings. Another 114,804 the most to attend a regular season college game last year watched the game live.
Ive been a huge college football fan since I was 10 years old, said Eric A. Weiss of Little River via email. Ive always loved spending my Saturdays watching that weeks action unfold.
I can remember the days when you could only watch one game, most likely on ABC.
That is far from a problem now, as networks pony up dump trucks of money to woo the power conferences exclusively to their network. The Southeastern Conference, whose teams have won the last six national championships, has the most lucrative contracts: a $2.25 billion deal with ESPN and an $825 million deal with CBS. Those deals, which run through 2024, bring in an annual average of $205 million, or $17.1 million per school.
Those deals mean big profits for businesses that cater to the college football fan, as well. Grand Strand establishments such as Hooters and Buffalo Wild Wings reap the windfall of atmospheres that cater to the pigskin lover: plenty of big TVs, a friendly atmosphere and overflowing plates of food.
Were really excited weve had people talking about it for the past month, said Billy James, a manager at the 38th Avenue North Hooters in Myrtle Beach. We will see an increase [in sales] until about the beginning of November, then it starts falling down a bit.
Buffalo Wild Wings in Carolina Forest, like Hooters, has special football deals available to the casual and rabid fan, alike.
The locals cant wait for football to get started, said manager Glenn Hamel.
It doesnt hurt that Thursday nights game features one of the local fans favorite.
Its even more anticipated because USC plays the first night, Hamel said. Were looking for a big day.
Contact TODD GARVIN at 626-0307.