As Brooks Stadium emptied at the beginning of a rainy fourth quarter Saturday, one man remained seated.
Coastal’s marching band sought cover in the tunnel, the cheerleaders went inside and the student section became a ghost town.
With 25 seconds left in the game and Texas State dominating Coastal, the Bobcats called their final timeout. Still, Pat Yarber didn’t budge.
“Why leave now?” he asked. “I’m already soaked, and I am finishing this game.”
And finish the game he did, because he always does.
Yarber, a Tennessee accountant who graduated from Vanderbilt University, has no allegiance to either team. He’s simply a college football fan with a mission: to see every stadium he can as long as he can see.
Nearly a decade ago, doctors told him he would eventually lose his eyesight. So he set out to watch every FBS team play in its own stadium.
Coastal was Yarber’s 130th FBS school. Even though he has just 10 percent of his vision left, he relished every moment of his time at Brooks Stadium.
“I really loved it,” he said. “Now I can’t ever answer, ‘Oh, what’s my favorite stadium?’ Because I’ve had great experiences at all of them. But I will say I certainly loved coming to Coastal Carolina.”
Yarber can’t see the football game the way most people can, but he is able to fill in the blanks and understand what is going on by using a set of binoculars and listening to a radio broadcast of the game on headphones.
Yarber has two eye diseases: retinitis pigmentosa and macular degeneration. He has no peripheral vision and he has little ability to see what is directly in front of him.
He can see things when they are within about 10 to 20 feet of him, but the images are still spotty and sometimes he is just able to see shapes or outlines.
Yarber is in the middle of medical procedures to try to improve his eyesight. He said the treatment has a 60 percent chance of improving his vision.
“I don’t know if it will work,” he said. “But it is always worth a shot.”
Yarber’s story has been featured on ESPN’s “College GameDay” and he typically calls the universities he visits to let them know he’s stopping by. He said Coastal officials weren’t particularly interested in his visit, but that didn’t bother him.
“Oh, that’s OK,” he said. “I had a great time. I mean, I’ve been on 'College GameDay.' I’ve met Tom Rinaldi, Paul Finebaum. I’ve had the chance to meet university presidents from all across the country and I have fond memories of nearly every school. This school is unique because someone from outside of the school administration, a student and an alum, really rolled out the red carpet, or should I say teal?”
Student Devin McCall gave Yarber an unofficial tour of Coastal.
As his sight has declined, he uses a walking stick and needs a guide to navigate campuses, but that doesn’t stop him from enjoying each visit.
“If I have my binoculars, my radio headphones and a hotdog, I’m one happy fan,” he said.
Yarber took a tour of the campus early in the day before the crowds started rolling in and he was able to go down onto the teal field.
“It is so bright,” he said. “It's funny because I’ve been to Boise State (a blue field), but this field is so different. I love the feel of it. It's bouncy, and it really is bright under the lights.”
Yarber also got to meet Coastal Carolina Defensive Coordinator Mickey Matthews.
“This is just so awesome to have someone travel all across the country and to come here to watch us play,” Matthews said. “Pat seems like the type of guy I could sit and talk to for hours about football.”
Another highlight of the trip was meeting Tyler Chadwick, who played on Coastal’s national championship baseball team last year and now coaches for the Chanticleers. Chadwick also played quarterback for Coastal’s football team.
“I’ve never gotten to meet a dual athlete like Tyler and it is so neat that he is coaching now at his alma mater,” Yarber said. “I even got to touch his World Series ring.”
With his trip to Conway complete, Yarber has now visited every FBS college stadium.
“I’ve been to thousands of football games, just paying for my flight, a hotel and my ticket,” he said. “I don’t do it as a gimmick or anything. I just truly love the game. I love the feel of a football stadium, the crowd, the band, the students, the players all of it is just so special. It is something that I want to remember if I really end up losing my sight completely. I just adore football, the energy, the game and it makes me happy.”