Trip to Tallahassee can be tricky, expensive for OU fans

BY TRAVIS HANEY, Staff Writer, thaney@opubco.com Modified: September 15, 2011 at 9:29 pm •  Published: September 15, 2011

NORMAN — Corey Walz and four other friends are flying today from Oklahoma to Tallahassee, Fla. And that, oddly enough, makes the quintet of OU seniors an anomaly.

Florida's state capital will be the epicenter of the college football world on Saturday, when No. 5 Florida State hosts the top-ranked Sooners. As much as FSU will be a test for OU, getting there is proving to be one for its fans.

Most traveling to the game are being forced to find another place to land than Tallahassee Regional Airport, where flights in are few and prices are sky-high.

That's what makes Walz and his traveling group different. Despite their youth – three of them are 21 years old, two are 22 – they had a well-orchestrated plan. They decided a year ago they would like to attend the FSU, in place of their tradition of going to the now-defunct Big 12 title game.

They collaborated in early June and booked their flights: Tulsa to Atlanta to Tallahassee. The price tag was about $450 a ticket. And that's a pretty good deal, really. It's tough to fly into TLH, normally. It's nearly impossible this weekend.

Some of Walz's other friends attempted to book flights in the past month. Then they saw the rates. They decided they would watch from home.

“It made us glad we made our plans when we did,” said Walz, a business major from Indiana.

Shane Walker and his friends and family considered driving their RV to Florida, continuing a tradition that's been going since the 1980s and going strong since 2002. But the 1,000-mile drive did not exactly work, because of work. It would have required everyone to take time off from jobs and school, and that wasn't feasible.

That left their group of five trying to find a flight a couple of weeks ago, well after Walz and his friends nailed down their itinerary. Flights into Tallahassee, by late August, were $1,500 a ticket – or more.

Seeing that, Walker took out a map and drew a 150-to-200-mile circle around Tallahassee. With the Gulf of Mexico wiping out a portion of it, he started to pinpoint airports that might serve as sufficient alternates. A lot of OU fans have done the same thing. Many will land today or tomorrow in places such as Panama City or Jacksonville, a couple of hours on either side of Tallahassee. Some, including Walker, had to get even more creative.

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