TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – A man attempting to break the unofficial record for attending the most college games in one long road trip is also doing good here in the Tampa Bay area, hoping to bring 70 children and their families to an upcoming University of South Florida game.
Ben Chase is an Orlando native, University of Florida Gator and a college football super fan. He’s attempting to break an unofficial road trip record for attending the most college football games in one season.
By Sunday, he will have hit 43 games. Within the next two weeks, he will tie that record at 50. As of Wednesday, Chase has been on the road for 65 days, traveling in his 2017 Dodge Grand Caravan named “Betty White.”
Chase said the football road trips started when he was in college himself.
“So when I was in college at UF, I was the guy who did the driving if we went to away games. We went from Gainesville to New Orleans overnight a few times,” he said. “Growing up, like I’d never went on a road trip with my parents or anything. My mom and dad are divorced, but I just loved going with friends on the road trip. I really enjoy driving long distances for some reason.”
Now, he said those road trips by himself are always on a whim. Chase said people had sent him reddit posts of “ultimate college football road trip” maps for years. This year, he pulled up one he had saved, but said if he attempted the road trip, he wanted to see if there was a record.
While he couldn’t find mention of anything official through the Guinness Book of World Records, he did find a story of two men who went to 50 games together in one season. He decided if they were announcing it as their record, he was going to try to beat it.
“It’s more than just about the games. My thesis is college athletics, and college football specifically, brings communities together more than anything, more than politics, more than religion,” Chase said. “These little towns like Auburn, Huntington, Pullman, Washington are carried on the back of the colleges, but also on the back of college sports.”
Since his journey began, he said he’s had around 200 people in the college football community send him money, even if it’s just $1 for coffee, gas or a car wash.
Chase said he’s been to 38 games so far this season, but thinks he’s actually only paid for eight tickets out of pocket.
“I mean, the first two games of the season, I just went up to random tailgates and went, ‘Hey, do you guys have an extra ticket?’ First game was New Mexico State and they were like, ‘Yeah, we have like 30,’” Chase said.
When he attended the University of Pittsburgh versus West Virginia University game, also known as the “Backyard Brawl,” Chase dropped in on a Pitt tailgate, where they were selling an extra ticket for $600. The fans ended up giving it to him for free.
With all he’s been able to do, Chase is looking to give back in his native state of Florida, teaming up with the Roll-Up podcast network to get 70 children and their families to the USF versus Southern Methodist University game on Nov. 12.
The reason he made the decision actually stemmed from a negative comment that stuck with him during one of his drives.
“I just did an interview with some news station and I read the comments section, which is a terrible idea to do… and someone said, ‘Imagine [this is what you’re] known for. The guy who just drives cross country on road trips.’ And I was like, ‘okay. That’s cool,’” Chase said. “So I kind of, not took it personally, but I was like, this story, I’ve gotten hundreds of messages, inspiring, like, ‘you’re my Forrest Gump,’ stuff like that.”
Thinking on the drive to the next football game, he decided to turn it in to a positive.
“I said, well, I think I have a platform where I can try to make a call to action on something special. So I decided USF is the closest game to central Florida where I have ties, so I circled that day and said, ‘We’re doing this,’” Chase said.
He called his contacts, who were all in on the idea, and posted a video outlining what he wanted to do. Chase got a response from the athletic director of USF, asking him to reach out.
Chase said after a call, USF is taking care of tickets for 70 kids and their families.
The past few days have consisted of working with local groups in the Tampa area to get them to the game.
“I’ve tried to reach out to diverse, different groups from different backgrounds,” Chase said.
He is also working to get a shirt and hat for each kid, because he makes sure he buys a hat and shirt from every home team of the games he attends.
“When I grew up in Orlando, UCF played in the Citrus Bowl at that point, and every season because they couldn’t sell it out, they would give tickets to the city of Orlando, the after-school programs, and we would get bussed to the games,” Chase said. “So it’s kind of like me doing the same, right? So that’s kind of the goal here.”
Providing the college game day experience to kids comes first, over his goal of attending 70 games himself, which he’s well on the way to doing.
Chase said he’s driven around 29,000 miles so far. He was on his seventh oil change of his trip on Wednesday, spending the early afternoon in Kent, Ohio, before traveling to another college game just two hours away. He said the only ticket he’s received is a $5 parking ticket in Morgantown, West Virginia.
“This week my drive time is 73 hours, 4,700 miles. Just this week alone. Last week was 61 hours, 3,900 miles. This is insane, what am I doing?” Chase said.
He’s doing it all on his credit card, but hoping the trip and the people he meets along the way leads to new opportunities. He’s sleeping in his van in truck stops or Walmart parking lots and hasn’t spent money on hotels or Airbnbs.
“I’ve had a few people call me the Anthony Bourdain of college athletics and you know, if I could pitch that to a company next year!” he laughed.
He’s also not worried about anyone breaking the unofficial record he plans on setting.
“If someone wants to come and do 72 or 80 [games] next year, there will be very few people who understand how hard it is. If someone does it by themselves, I will buy them a beer at the National Championship game because this is crazy. It’s overwhelming,” Chase said.
If you’re interested in helping Chase with his goal of getting 70 kids to the USF game, you can reach out to him online.