Traditions Week: Top Ten Stadiums  

Posted by Walter

1) The Rose Bowl - Los Angeles, CA

The Rose bowl may be the perfect football stadium. First, it's located on a golf course. In a valley. Surrounded by the San Pedro mountain range. Second, the weather there is always perfect. Third, since it's a big bowl, every seat is a good seat, and there are no class distinctions. It's a place for football fans to watch football. Finally, it's a place that seems more like a gladiators arena than a place for a football game. It's also possibly the most historic football stadium in creation. The Rose Bowl is the GrandaThe Rose Bowl may be the perfect football stadium. It's located on a golf course in a valley, surrounded by majestic mountains on all sides. The weather is phenomenal every single day. The stadium itself is a huge bowl so all the seats are great, and it honestly looks more like addy of them all. There's no doubt about that. It's a tradition rich game, and the stadium is a true reflection of that. It waits patiently in Pasadena every year in anticipation of a marquee matchup, featuring teams full of young men dying for the opportunity to play in the game they've dreamed of all their lives. It's where annually the East faces the West, and high scoring, flashy offenses are traditionally squared off against down and dirty defenses, and teams looking to tote the rock for three yards and their cloud of dust. It's the perfect showcase for the battle for the soul of college football. There may be no more perfect moment for watching a football game than to see the sun dipping below the San Pedro mountains on a perfectly cloudless day, as the fourth quarter reaches its' climax and a hundred thousand fans from across the nation rise to their feet, putting voice to their desperate hopes that their team, their definition of how football should be played, will seize the day and lay claim to the richest tradition in all of college football.

2) The Big House - Ann Arbor, MI

Words cannot describe the feeling you get entering the world's largest football stadium. Since 1926, The Big House has been an Ann Arbor staple. A landmark that has transcended its status as a venue for sports. By 2010 the Big House will hold over 108,000 people, and, to tell you the truth, that number cannot go high enough to appease the throngs of rabid Wolverine fans clamoring to watch a game from inside its hallowed walls.

3) Neyland Stadium - Knoxville, TN

Walter, a former high school assistant coach, has always said that it's better to coach in college than the pro's because if you're great in college they name the stadium after you. Enter Neyland Stadium, the greatest of the stadiums named after a coach (General Robert Neyland). Whether it's the aura of history and prestige that wafts through the field, or the image of the orange checkerboard design in the endzone that is burned into your mind's eye, any time you are watching a game at Neyland Stadium you know you're seeing something special.

4) Tiger Stadium (a.k.a. Death Valley) - Baton Rouge, LA

Frazier recently summed it up best by saying "I think I'd sell 5 years of my life to be in Tiger Stadium for a night game." Generally considered the loudest stadium in the entire nation (legend has it that during LSU's 1988 victory over Auburn, the crowd's reaction to the game winning touchdown pass registered on the seismograph of the LSU geology department), playing inside Death Valley is so difficult that Bear Bryant famously remarked that playing there was like playing "inside of a drum." Yeah, I think being in Baton Rouge for a night game might be worth 5 years!

5) Beaver Stadium (a.k.a. Happy Valley) - State College, PA

Another one of the true holdouts to still use a grass playing surface, Happy Valley is anything but Happy for opposing teams. Take the second largest seating capacity in the country, add in 107,000 rabid Nittany Lions fans chanting "We are.....Penn State" and you have one of the truly notorious home field advantages in all of sports. At the same time, Frazier has a particular fondness for the Penn State fans themselves. For a home-and-home deal with the Nittany Lions, the Penn State fans showed up in Charlottesville in huge numbers, cheered hard, got hammered, and were good company to hang out with at the bar after the game. When the UVA crew returned the favor the following year they were greeted by friendly faces, incredibly knowledgable football fans and just the right mix of taunting and conviviality in the stands. It's still an incredibly tough place for opposing teams to play, but it's a great atmosphere for a game. Named for the former governor of PA, the best thing about Beaver Stadium is that on game days the stadium itself becomes the third largest city in the entire state, just behind Philly and Pittsburgh. Now that is just awesome!

6) Kyle Field - College Station, TX

Most people don't know that Texas A & M used to be a military school. Subsequently, most people don't know that the stadium was dedicated to the 55 Aggies who were killed in the First World War. Kyle Field is rich with tradition, whether its this type of homage to the brave men who made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of this country, or whether it's the fact that A & M's original mascot, Reveille, is buried in the North end zone so that she may always see the score of the game. Kyle Field is also famously the home of "The 12th Man," one of the greatest football traditions of all time, and an absolute nightmare for opposing teams. Finally, A&M doesn't have cheerleaders, they have yell leaders. This may be the only fan base in the country who actually practices their cheering before games. Instead of pretty young women doing gymnastics, the Aggies have big, intimidating dudes screaming at the top of their lungs looking like they might burst a blood vessel. While we may miss the cheerleaders and their little skirts, there is perhaps no stadium in the world has Kyle Field's combination of history and intimidation.

7) The Notre Dame Stadium (a.k.a. The Golden Dome) - South Bend, IN

While we are not fans of Notre Dame's policy of selling tickets to opposing fans, this list would not be complete without a homage to the "House That Rockne Built." One of the few stadiums that still uses natural grass as a playing surface, Notre Dame Stadium is probably best known for its view of "Touchdown Jesus," a large mural of the resurrection adorning the side of the Hesburgh Library. Like The Big House, Notre Dame Stadium carries with it a supernatural, almost spiritual element. For any college football fan, a trip to the Golden Dome would feel more like a religious pilgrimage than anything else.


8) Bryant-Denny Stadium - Tuscaloosa, AL

To get to Bryant-Denny stadium, just go down Main Street and turn onto Bryant Drive. Notice a pattern? While his name wasn't on the side of the stadium when he coached there, Bear Bryant accumulated an other-worldly 72-2 record in Bryan-Denny during his tenure. Sure the Crimson Tide's record at the stadium may be gaudy (187-32-3 all time), and you'd have to be a robot not to get goosebumps walking past the Bear Bryant statue on the Walk of Champions, but the best thing about Bryant-Denny stadium is that it's used a single pair of goalposts in it's entire history. Tearing down the goalposts is an idiotic way to celebrate, and by refusing to do so Crimson Tide fans show their respect for the game, the stadium, and the man who built it. In other words, the Tide fans "act like they've been there before."

9) Frank Howard Field (a.k.a. Death Valley) - Clemson, SC

The "other" Death Valley in name only, Frank Howard Field is as notoriously difficult on opposing teams as any stadium in the nation. The nickname is twofold, first because the stadium itself is actually situated in a valley with the University cemetery overlooking the field, and second because Lonnie McMillan, formerly the football coach at Presbyterian College, famously referred to the stadium as "Death Valley" because his teams always got killed there. The top decks of the stadium are ridiculously sloped, so climbing them feels more like scaling a mountain than returning from the beer line. Frazier struggled including this stadium on the list because it is the exact opposite of Happy Valley, both in name and character. While the "We Are" cheer is one of the best in all of sports, the obnoxious Clemson cheer "C-L-E-M-S-OOOOOO-N!" is incredibly idiotic, generally irritating, and repeated hundreds, if not thousands, of times per game. Instead of good, loyal fans with high football IQ's, the Clemson bunch are a group of asshole rednecks, who instead of wanting to join you after the game for a beer at the local bar, would prefer to pick a fight, get your visiting-ass arrested, and then point you the wrong direction out of town. That being said, it's still a pretty amazing atmosphere. However, the most unique feature of the stadium is the white flint rock that sits atop the hill overlooking the field. It is tradition that the Clemson players rub "Howard's Rock" (as it is known) prior to running down the hill prior to games. This tradition has been called "the most exciting 25 seconds in college football."

****NOTE****

Apparently, people find this post more than any other we've ever done. Which is great. However, I seem to have pissed off an awful lot of Clemson fans in the process. Look, I calls em as I sees em. This is my honest opinion based on personal experience. If it's not YOUR experience, well, you're luckier than I am. Just because many of your fans are assholes, it doesn't mean that you are. Trust me, I'm a Sox and Pats fan, so I know the feeling.

-Frazier 10/22/07

10) Ben Hill Griffin Stadium (a.k.a. The Swamp) - Gainesville, FL

Aptly nicknamed The Swamp by former head coach Steve Spurrier, Ben Hill Griffin Stadium is located entirely below sea level. In fact, let's turn things over to Steve Spurrier to describe the mystique and tradition of the Stadium: "A swamp is where Gators live. We feel comfortable there, but we hope our opponents feel tentative. A swamp is hot and sticky and can be dangerous. Only Gators get out alive."

14 comments

Anonymous   says 12:00 AM

As a Clemson Tiger, I am offended by the write up that goes with our stadium for obvious reasons. I am not about to apologize for our strong sense of school spirit. I would be more than a little concerned if you attended a football game and didn't cheer for your home team. I have found the description of our fans you have provided to be inaccurate, but then again, you're obviously not a Clemson fan. This discription most likely came from the fact that you are in a bit of a bind. You don't even want to include us in your top ten list but know that this list would not be complete with out Death Valley.

RickRobFL   says 5:09 PM

Came across your site when I was searching for top ten stadiums in college and the NFL.
Was interested in what you provided and had to share .... then....
lost all interest & respect for you as a half-serious journalist when you “had” to respond to a Clemson fan’s critique with “F” bombs and middle school maturity.
Sorry I can’t refer your insights to others. You obviously love college football, but “stuff” like this with the crudeness is a dime-a-dozen in the WWW.
a SEC/UF/USF/UCF fan
RickRobFL

Frazier   says 5:30 PM

I'd be more concerned with what our buddy Rick Rob had to say, but the 323 doesn't have any respect for people who list themselves as fans of three teams AND a conference (and have two first names to boot).

But now I know someone with the same sensibilities as Joe Buck.

ps: We have never pretended to be "serious" journalists. Nor would we want to be. Those guys are jerks.

Anonymous   says 9:53 PM

I attended the Clemson/FSU game in Death Valley this year and had a great experience. The Clemson fans were friendly and showed us a good time. Several Clemson fans came up to us and said welcome to Clemson and wished us a good time. I found the students I sat with from FSU to be the most obnoxious people at the game. The tradition and atmosphere at the game was awesome.

i go to clemson, so obviously im biased... but i sit in central spirit section of the student section which is the front 15 rows at the 10 yard line... basically the students in my section are die-hard clemson. i've never heard them treat opposing fans with any disrespect... honestly ive been very impressed. also, countless times i've talked to fans of other teams while visiting and they comment on how we have the most welcoming and kindest fans in the ACC. im sorry frazier, but unless your a gamecock, i honestly do not understand why you are so against clemson. i apoligize on behalf of all tigers if you had such an unfortunate experience at Clemson, and i hope you know that is NOT what the majority of the fan base is like. i would challenge you to come back and see what good sportsmanship is all about, because i feel like we show that every game.

sorry again, and honestly i've been to every stadium in the ACC, aside from chestnut hill... and every crowd has it bad apples. but BY FAR, the worst i've been to is maryland. i was talking to my good friend in the MD student section and had stuff thrown at me and was cussed out and threatened by two guys sitting right behind my friend . i couldnt believe it. there is no way clemson fans are that bad.

Chad   says 7:31 PM

All of your posts about the different stadiums had been nothing but good and complimenting words. I thought it was going to be a great and informing site and was very excited to read about Death Valley and my beloved Tigers until I got read what you had to say. I am not a redneck and neither are any of the people that sit around me or that I tailgate with, so for you to stereotype every Clemson fan as you do is an incredible insult to every one of us. Maybe it's just the people YOU associate yourself with and choose to hang out with so do not blame that on us. Also, I've cheered at the TV every game I see Virginia in. I wish they could have gone 11-1 this season so again I say you stereotyped us and in an extremely disgusting way, you friend are the redneck for what you've posted about us.

Anonymous   says 11:29 PM

Frazier, you are truely a complete moron. So you had a bad experience, don't judge Clemson as a whole solely based on the actions of a select few. Grow up and get over it dickhead.

I will agree with Daniel that the second worst fans I've ever met were definitely the Maryland bunch. Those guys have a well-earned reputation of being complete and total assholes. If you polled ACC fans I think you'd find agreement that Terps fans are the worst of the bunch. In my experience the guys from Wake would probably be the most easy-going. I always enjoyed hanging out with them.

Anyways, it's true that I have a beef against Clemson fans, mostly because of the way I was treated there.

To be fair, if I had to live in Clemson, SC and watch Tommy Bowden destroy my dreams every year, I'd probably be a miserable asshole too.

If some of the Tigers faithful want to host me on a return visit, I'll make sure to report my experiences, and am willing to change my mind.

Anonymous   says 11:09 PM

Beaver stadium is the best, no question. It is gigantic, the fans are out of the control, best student section in the country, and the tailgating is an experience in itself.

The Big House 2 and The Swamp 10? ....please I've been to both many times, and The Big House is cool, the crowd as quiet as can be....the only place you could take a nap, and awaken the pleasant sound of keys chingling like wind chimes.

The Swamp....consistantly the loudest stadium in the country, and a very tough place to win if you're the visiting team. Visit here during one of the bigger games, and it will be in your Top 3

as a tennessee fan i find that kind of funny because any where you go you will find people like that. Sometimes it is funny to point people the wrong direction and watch them get arrested. GO VOLS

Anonymous   says 3:02 PM

I've been to most of the biggest college stadiums over the years and i'd have to say that the loudest ones to me were mainly in the SEC. My picks are 1) LSU 2) Florida 3) Georgia 4) Penn State 5) Texas

Anonymous   says 3:06 PM

I've gotta say you're right on about the Clemson fans. I haven't been in a fight since I was 12-years-old (I'm now 51) and the closest I've come (in fact, the only times I've come anywhere close) has been with Clemson fans. Red-faced, veins-popping, angry, bitter assholes screaming right in your face God-knows-what because they're South Carolina redneck accents are so ignorantly thick they might as well be screaming in Farsi. Still ,it's a pretty good atmosphere for a game though I can name a number of others I'd rate in the top ten before this place.

I just have to say Frazier, what you have said about Clemson University and its fans could not be any further from the truth. I have been a Clemson fan my whole life and have been coming to games for the past 19 years so I think I would know a little more about the Clemson fan base than you would. Don't be too quick to judge just because you had a bad experience with a couple of fans. You'll run into obnoxious, rude fans at any stadium you go to, including Fenway Park and Gillette Stadium. If you think our fans are bad you should go to Maryland or South Carolina. Talk about some assholes. I went to Maryland one year and there were fans throwing beer bottles at kids. That's about as ridiculous as you can get. I'm sorry you had a bad experience in Tiger Town but you're dead wrong about our fans and Death Valley.

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