Football Fun Day

The Hatters open their season Saturday.

When the Stetson Hatters host the Sacred Heart Pioneers this Saturday night at Spec Martin Memorial Stadium in DeLand, Fla., nine months of waiting and wondering since they last took the field will culminate in 60 minutes of much-anticipated football.

The Hatters, 3-8 a year ago, will largely pin their fortunes on a defense led by All-American Donald Payne. The senior safety led all college players with 185 total tackles last season. Also notably, 13 players who arrived in 2011 to help restart Stetson football will be playing in green and white for one of their final few times.

Meanwhile, the Patriots, 6-5 last season, arrive from Fairfield, Conn., with two high-profile seniors in quarterback R.J. Noel and linebacker James Rentz, like Payne a tackling machine.

1GameDayExperience_270x180Surely, fans can expect a good game.

Yet, for Hatters fans who want to catch the action in person, the fun promises to start long before kick-off. Call it a football frenzy.

“There will be fun for all ages,” asserts Cain Yarbrough, Stetson’s assistant director for Athletic Marketing and Promotions. “There will be a ton of activities.”

The Pregame Plan

Tailgating aside, the place to be is Hatter Village, Yarbrough asserts. Actually, with some planning, fans can tailgate and visit Hatter Village.

Now a full-fledged Stetson football tradition, Hatter Village is located on Alabama Avenue between Hubbard and Euclid avenues. Admission is free and fans can enter three hours before kick-off. Adjacent parking opens four hours before the game.

Hatter Village is designed to create a “great college football atmosphere,” filled with food and drinks (nonalcoholic), music and merriment, highlighted by the ever-popular inflatables. This Saturday, Hatter Village will feature extra-special promotions for the season opener.

Blackout Saturday

Saturday’s game has been designated a “blackout” game in what looks to be a Stetson tradition in the making. All fans are encouraged to dress in black, with the first 300 or so fans who enter the stadium receiving a free black Stetson Hatters T-shirt.

“Wear all black or just black shirts, but wear black!” urges Yarbrough.

Win a Prize or Be Seen on the Big Screen

Promotional giveaways are planned throughout the game, thanks to sponsors. Among the promotions is the Dirtiest Car in the Lot. A student will walk around the stadium parking areas before the game and photograph the selected “dirtiest car,” with the winner receiving a free car wash and the car getting showcased on the stadium’s big video board. Dance Cam is back, too, live on the big screen. All in the name of fun.

New Hatter Rewards

Watching the Hatters play is reward enough, of course, but now there’s the new Hatter Rewards app.


The app, downloadable from iTunes and Google Play, takes the fan experience to the “next level,” says Mike McKercher, assistant athletics director for External Operations. Fans get rewarded for their loyalty plus they gain uncommon access to Stetson athletics.

When they check-in at the game on the app, fans receive points that can lead to prizes and purchase offers. Also, there’s a click for live statistics, social media and live streaming of the action. (Suggestion: Share your experience on Twitter and Facebook while at the game.) Fans can even view the real-time points standings to see who’s in the lead for most loyal fan of all.

“We haven’t yet promoted the app, and we already have received great response,” comments McKercher.

On Saturday night, kick-off is set for 7. The fun starts much earlier.

Editor’s note: To read more about the Hatters, see Improved Leadership Key for Hatters Hopes in 2016 and Hatters Ready for Season-Opening Test.

By Michael Candelaria