If you want to know the inside information, it’s always best head to the source.
With that in mind, who knows Big 12 football any better than the beat writers covering it? You’d be hard-pressed to locate many people with more knowledge of the teams, towns and traditions across the Big 12 than those hard-scrabbled scribes who live in those towns and follow those teams on a regular basis.
Some of these men have been walking the same beat for decades, while others are newer to the scene. But none of them shrunk from the challenge when the Tribune-Herald posed a series of all-important questions, like the best place to grab a bite before a game or a cold drink afterward.
Without further ado, here are the results from our Big 12 beat writer survey:
Beat writer, West Virginia Mountaineers
Top tailgate spot: Tent City, which springs up right outside Milan Puskar Stadium on game days.
Best watering hole: Apothecary Ale House.
Most enduring tradition: Singing of John Denver’s “Country Roads” after each game, win or loss. (It’s only supposed to play after wins).
Underrated eatery: Black Bear Burritos.
In a word, West Virginia football is … Underdog-ish?
Don’t bother visiting: Don’t want to put anyone down here. Pittsburgh?
Most quotable player: WR Shelton Gibson.
Program icon: Pat White/Major Harris.
Most memorable WVU game you’ve covered: Last season’s Cactus Bowl. WVU edged Arizona State, 43-42, in Phoenix, and Skyler Howard threw for 532 yards and five touchdowns. Think about the latter clause for a moment.
After the game, the locals go to: High Street.
Beat Writer, Texas Longhorns
Top tailgate spot: Parking garages, unfortunately. Due to civic sprawl, the only real tailgate spots are in the city of Austin or UT parking garages. School officials did a complete makeover of the north end zone for pre-game festivities. Kids can play games, meet UT cheerleaders, hear live bands and other assorted stuff before kickoff.
Best watering hole: Scholz Garten (1607 San Jacinto Blvd.) has long been a Texas fan favorite, mostly because it’s a short walk from Royal-Memorial Stadium. Wings, beer, brats. What more do you want to get revved up for game day?
Most enduring tradition: Getting your picture taken with Bevo. Fans all over the world mourned when Bevo XIV passed away last season. The Silver Spurs spirit organization has selected a new animal, one that will make its debut during the Sept. 4 season opener against Notre Dame.
Underrated eatery: Angie’s (1307 E. 7th St.) is a wonderful Tex-Mex stop on the east side of Interstate 35 where you can find plenty of lobbyists, legislators and wanna-bes. Swing around back and park in the alley.
In a word, Texas football is … Average. This program has not been relevant nationally since losing the 2009 BCS championship game. Charlie Strong is 11-14 the last two seasons. As a flagship school in Texas, the Longhorns should be in the Big 12 title mix every year.
Don’t bother visiting: Franklin Barbecue. Yes, it’s famous and delicious. But you might be waiting for hours, and there are plenty other top-notch choices around town. Try Stiles Switch (6610 N. Lamar Blvd.) or Terry Black’s (1003 Barton Springs Road). The Salt Lick in Driftwood, Texas, is still BYOB.
Most quotable player: Malik Jefferson. The linebacker from Mesquite Poteet has wide-ranging views on sports, politics and life. He’s become the face of the program and the PR department’s dream.
Program icon: Mack Brown led the program to the 2005 national championship. The former coach is now one of the best UT ambassadors imaginable.
Most memorable Texas game you’ve covered: In 1995, Texas defeated Texas A&M, 16-6, to win the final Southwest Conference championship at Kyle Field. Afterward, UT fans attempted to storm the field, only to be met by A&M’s Corps of Cadets with their swords drawn.
After the game, the locals go to: South Congress Ave. Granted, it may be too trendy for the 40-and-over crowd, but out-of-towners can get the full Austin experience by parking once and walking around. There are plenty of restaurants, funky shops, street performers, Allens Boots and a cupcake truck.
Beat writer, Kansas Jayhawks
Top tailgate spot: Campanile Hill and the parking lots surrounding Memorial Stadium are full of tents and tailgaters soaking up the atmosphere of another Saturday in the fall. There’s a giant TV screen at the bottom of the hill (just in front of the south end zone) so people can keep up with other games, as well.
Best watering hole: Red Lyon is a British-style pub downtown on Mass Street that features a festive atmosphere, cold drinks and some of the friendliest people you’ll ever meet.
Most enduring tradition: KU’s offense has struggled of late, but for years KU fans have “Waved the wheat” after their team scores a touchdown. It’s a simple gesture made by putting both hands in the air and moving them side to side above one’s head, but when the place is packed and everyone is doing it, it’s a pretty cool sight.
Underrated eatery: Mass Street is the most popular post-game environment for locals and out-of-towners alike, but just a block off of Mass on Vermont Street is a place called Terrebonne Cafe which offers outstanding cajun and creole food made from scratch.
In a word, Kansas football is: Rebuilding.
Don’t bother visiting: Any of the dozens of chain restaurants in Lawrence. There are several terrific local spots for food and drinks, including Free State Brewery and 23rd Street Brewery, which both, as their names suggest, brew their own delicious beers.
Most quotable player: Junior linebacker Joe Dineen Jr., who hails from Lawrence, is the most-tell-it-like-it-is player on the team and junior wide receiver LaQuvionte Gonzalez, a transfer from Texas A&M, is the most entertaining.
Program icon: Chicago Bears legend Gale Sayers is probably the best known Kansas player on a national stage, but Todd Reesing, who, as recently as 2008, led the Jayhawks to a 12-1 season and an Orange Bowl championship is by far the most recent fan favorite.
Most memorable Kansas game you’ve covered: There have not been that many good ones during the past six seasons and KU has won just 12 games during that time. However, KU’s 52-45 home win over Colorado in 2010 in which the Jayhawks trailed 38-17 heading into the fourth quarter definitely stands out, and so does a 44-7 loss at Oklahoma in 2014, when OU running back Semaje Perine set an NCAA record with 427 rushing yards.
After the game, the locals go to: KUsports.com to check the basketball schedule to see how many days until basketball season begins.
Beat writer, TCU Horned Frogs
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Top tailgate spot: No personal experience, but they say by the tennis center is a good spot. Or maybe it’s the soccer stadium. Who knows? Probably good all over.
Best watering hole: Never heard of a bad one.
Most enduring tradition: If by enduring you mean loud, the Frog Horn.
Underrated eatery: Salsa Limon.
In a word, TCU football is … Relevant.
Most quotable player: We’ll see.
Program icon: Sammy Baugh.
Most memorable TCU game you’ve covered: 61-58 (2014 Baylor win over TCU).
After the game, the locals go to: Ha. Don’t ask me. You know where I am after the game.
Beat writer, Oklahoma Sooners
Top tailgate spot: Lloyd Noble Center parking lot (which turns into its own city on game days)
Best watering hole: O’Connell’s Irish Pub and Grille has been a staple of OU fans since the Barry Switzer days.
Most enduring tradition: The trek down I-35 for the Red River game vs. Texas on the second Saturday of October.
Underrated eatery: The Mont, a nearby restaurant that offers patio dining and a popular drink called the Sooner Swirl.
In a word, OU football is … Fanatical
Don’t bother visiting: The Switzer Center, which isn’t open right now because of stadium renovations and also isn’t open on game days. During the week, it’s a nice stop.
Most quotable player: Baker Mayfield.
Program icon: Barry Switzer.
Most memorable OU game you’ve covered: Oklahoma’s 45-31 victory over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl following the 2013 season. I joined many OU beat writers for dinner before the game wondering if it was going to be a mismatch. Four hours later, I witnessed Bob Stoops win the second-biggest game of his coaching career (the national title victory was the only victory that was bigger).
After the game, the locals go to: Campus Corner, which has numerous bars and restaurants just north of the stadium.
Beat writer, Oklahoma State Cowboys
Top tailgate spot: The lots south and/or west of Boone Pickens Stadium
Best watering hole: JR Murphy’s
Most enduring tradition: Homecoming week
Underrated eatery: The Garage
In a word, Oklahoma State football is … Unpredictable.
Don’t bother visiting: Anywhere that isn’t Eskimo Joe’s or The Hideaway.
Most quotable player: Offensive tackle Zachary Crabtree.
Program icon: Barry Sanders (but Mike Gundy is catching up).
Most memorable Oklahoma State game you’ve covered: Bedlam 2014. OSU comes from behind and wins 38-35 in OT in Norman to avoid a losing season and reach a bowl.
After the game, the locals go to: Eskimo Joe’s.
Beat writer, Iowa State Cyclones
Des Moines Register
Top tailgate spot: Jack Trice Stadium parking lot. Iowa State’s parking lots are full of people on gamedays – regardless of time.
Best watering hole: Whiskey River. It’s a local, under the radar tavern the mostly the old school Ames people really know about.
Most enduring tradition: The spirit walk, when fans line up to watch players enter the locker room before the game.
Underrated eatery: The Euro Man. This isn’t a restaurant but it’s a stand that is set up on Welch Avenue. You can watch the euros be made and take one in right outside the bars in the area.
In a word, Iowa State football is … rising. It’s a new area of football with Matt Campbell in his first season with the Cyclones and excitement couldn’t be higher.
Don’t bother visiting: Hickory Park. The food is fantastic but the lines will be extremely long because it’s the hot spot in Ames. If you can get in, great.
Most quotable player: Demond Tucker. He doesn’t shy away from what he wants to accomplish, can accomplish, and thinks he will accomplish.
Program icon: Troy Davis. Davis is the face of the Iowa State football program. The tales of him running over, into, and around defenders who knew he was going to get the ball are legendary.
Most memorable Iowa State game you’ve covered: The biggest win in program history is arguably the 2011 game when Iowa State took down No. 2 Oklahoma State in double overtime. It’s still what resonates with fans and something they’ll always talk about.
After the game, the locals go to: Welch Avenue Station. It’s not too far from the stadium and right smack dab of where students (past and present) like to gather before and after games.
Beat writer, Texas Tech Red Raiders
Top tailgate spot: The west side of Jones Stadium is a place to be on Texas Tech game day. That’s reserved donor parking, but fans are friendly enough to invite in visitors who amble by on their way into the stadium.
Best watering hole: Chimy’s is usually hoppin’ in the hours surrounding a game. It’s located on Broadway, right across University Avenue from campus.
Most enduring tradition: The Masked Rider leading the team onto the field in the minute or two leading up to kickoff. That’s been a staple for more than 60 years.
Underrated eatery: Wiley’s Barbecue, about 3 1/2 miles east of Jones Stadium at 1805 Parkway Dr. Small building that’s easy to miss, but great-tasting food.
In a word, Texas Tech football is ... Rousing.
Don’t bother visiting: Can’t really think of a place that deserves much of a rebuke.
Most quotable player: Inside receiver Cameron Batson’s a sharp guy, a lifetime straight-A student and that makes for solid insights.
Program icon: E.J. Holub. It’s hard to beat Holub’s combination of College Football Hall of Fame credentials, larger-than-life personality and authentic rancher persona (he did that after football). He embodies the Double-T.
Most memorable Texas Tech game you’ve covered: As many good ones as I’ve covered -- I believe the total’s close to 300 -- the most memorable would have to be the 2008 Tech-Texas game based on the significance and the ending. Michael Crabtree’s last-second touchdown catch gave Tech a 39-33 victory over No. 1 Texas and moved the Red Raiders up to No. 2 in the rankings.
After the game, the locals go to: Nick’s Sports Grill gives you what you look for in a sports bar with dinner, drinks and big-screen TVs. There’s one walking distance from the stadium at 2323 Mac Davis Lane and another in south Lubbock at 9806 Quaker Ave.
Beat writer, Kansas State Wildcats
Top tailgate spot: With large parking lots on the west and east sides of Bill Snyder Family Stadium, hundreds of tailgate parties -- private and public -- are in walking distance.
Best watering hole: Auntie Mae’s Parlor.
Most enduring tradition: The marching band’s pregame rendition of Wabash Cannonball.
Underrated eatery: Mr. K’s Café and Bar. Try the Buffalo Chicken & Blue Cheese flatbread pizza.
In a word, K-State football is: Consistent.
Don’t bother visiting: The crowded chain restaurants. For a town it’s size, Manhattan has ample quality local spots.
Most quotable player: Center Dalton Risner.
Program icon: Bill Snyder.
Most memorable Kansas State game you’ve covered: I’ve been on the beat only four years but my first year, 2012, the Wildcats beat Texas 42-24 in the final regular season game to earn a share of the Big 12 championship.
After the game, the locals go to: Aggieville entertainment district.
Beat writer, Baylor Bears
Top tailgate spot: Sailgating on a boat next to McLane Stadium.
Best watering hole: George’s. The Big O is legendary.
Most enduring tradition: The Bears charging out of the tunnel through the Baylor Line before the game.
Underrated eatery: Dubl-R. Best burgers in town.
In a word, Baylor football is … Turbulent. With the sexual assault scandal, the program is in flux following the firing of coach Art Briles.
Don’t bother visiting: Floyd Casey Stadium. It was blown up.
Most quotable player: Lynx Hawthorne. Always says something interesting or funny you don’t expect.
Program icon: Grant Teaff.
Most memorable Baylor game you’ve covered: A 45-38 win over Oklahoma in 2011 when Robert Griffin III threw last second touchdown pass to Terrance Williams to seal Heisman.
After the game, the locals go: Back to George’s.