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Harvest weeks, fall foliage and football are here again. For millions of Americans, it's time to ice up the cooler, pack up the family and the tailgate grill and put together a couple of changes of clothes for a weekend road trip to some college town or other for a bit of pure, bone-pounding gridiron pleasure. College football games are magnets for big money and crazy lifelong fans — whether a matchup between two of the nation's touted Division I-A teams in pursuit of a conference title and a national championship, a battle for Division II or III primacy, or a homecoming classic between squads in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics league for smaller institutions.

College football travel is a point-of-passion opportunity for marketers of an entire arsenal of road-warrior pre- and post-game necessities, as fans and fanatics, spectators and human mascots burn up the miles, book the motel rooms, scarf down the takeout and pump up their vocal chords as they follow the fortunes of their alma mater team, or that of their college-age offspring. As much as 6 percent of resident domestic travel — about 60 million person trips — includes sporting events as an activity, according to Travel Industry Association of America (TIAA) data, and football ranks second only to baseball as the sporting event people travel to watch or participate in as they take to the road, book hotel nights, dine at eateries in university towns and behave otherwise as consumers driving the autumn travel economy. TIAA data indicates that two-fifths of U.S. adults travel for sports events.

To geographically visualize America's hotbeds of college football fandom, American Demographics asked Claritas to provide county data that enabled us to create the accompanying maps using ESRI's ArcView 8.3 mapping software. Fans and college game attendees alike coalesce across a broad swath of the nation's Southeast region, sweeping through the heartland Midwest stretching from Michigan to west Texas, up to the Great Northwest. Counties in Virginia, Louisiania, Arkansas and Mississippi represent the highest densities of rabid fans, while New York, logically, draws the fewest.

It's all zeal and zaniness, serious fun and ludicrous gravity on display each weekend from early September through the end of November in college and university stadiums that spring out from cornfields and plains, out of mile-high mountains and in cities small, medium and large. From watching sideline and grandstand television coverage of their painted faces, half-shaved heads, their freely brandished bellies and post-touchdown antics, you'd hardly think that college football's highly charged fan base tends to profile as a group of exceptionally well-educated, well-heeled, professional over-achievers.

In fact Mediamark Research, Inc. data indicates that college football game attendees — typically males between ages 18 and up — index notably high (148) for household incomes of $150,000 to $199,000, and likewise distinguish themselves on educational attainment at the postgraduate level (149). The college fan and attendee universe also skews with a bias toward import cars, hot tubs, steam cookers, espresso and cappuccino makers and electronic organizers. When they're not on the road speeding toward their next game destination, an Indian Summer day might likely find doing a little putting on the golf course.

Source for map and PopUpdates: Claritas, Inc.

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