Top 10 Most Sacred College Football Stadiums
Editor’s Note: Rankings based on stadium’s age, size, pageantry, history and aura. The stadiums have to still exist and be used by an FBS team as its home stadium.
10. Sanford Stadium (Georgia)
Sanford Stadium is the seventh-largest stadium in college football. It has undergone numerous expansions and renovations since opening in 1929. But it’s known for keeping a traditional look despite the improvements. Sanford has been home to many a heated SEC contest. Most of all, though, Sanford is known for its games played “between the hedges,” a nod to the manicured shrubbery that surrounds the field. Put UGA - Georgia’s live bulldog mascot - on the sideline, and there are few places on earth like Athens, GA, on Saturday afternoon.
9. Bryant-Denny Stadium (Alabama)
Bryant-Denny Stadium fits 101,821 Crimson Tide die-hards and, sometimes, that’s just for ‘Bama’s spring game. There’s a reason an entire state is batty about Alabama football. The Tide have a tremendous history that includes dozens of national and conference championships. Six of those national title teams were guided by Paul “Bear” Bryant, for whom the stadium is partly named. It’s college football’s hallowed ground, and one of the sport’s most-recognizable venues. Just wear Auburn gear at your own risk.
8. Beaver Stadium (Penn State)
Beaver Stadium isn’t nearly as old as some of the others on this list (opened in 1960), but it makes up for it in so many other ways. The gameday experience in Happy Valley can’t be beat with Paternoville outside the stadium, 106,000 screaming fans inside of it (second biggest in the nation), JoePa strolling the sidelines and hulking linebackers always bringing the pain to opponents. The student section is particularly rabid and is often named the best in the land, and there’s nothing like a white out at night in Happy Valley.
7. Tiger Stadium (LSU)
Death Valley is considered by many as the toughest place to play in the nation. With primetime games and, as a result, 92,542 lathered up fans, Tiger Stadium is like a weekly Mardi Gras celebration in the fall. How wild? One of the stadium’s famous moments, “The Earthquake Game,” took place in 1988, when Tommy Hodson connected with Eddie Fuller for a game-winning TD pass against Auburn. The crowd reaction registered on the seismic scale. Things were always that rowdy, even on Halloween 1959, when LSU legend Billy Cannon beat Ole Miss with a late TD run for one of the stadium’s best moments. And if you take Les Miles’ word (why would you not?), the turf at Tiger Stadium tastes best.
6. Neyland Stadium (Tennessee)
Knoxville’s Neyland Stadium is college football’s third-largest stadium, which holds 102,455 fans. And they are all clad in matching Vol colors, turning Neyland into a big Orange army. Ironically, it’s the navy that makes the stadium’s game-day experience so special. With its location right on the Tennessee River, the Vol Navy can float right up to the stadium in boats as fans tailgate on the water. Once you get inside the stadium, there’s the checkered end zone design, running through the giant “T”, “Rocky Top” blaring and Smokey on the sidelines.
5. Ben Hill Griffin Stadium (Florida)
“The Swamp” is the greatest stadium nickname in college football and is in a dead heat with Death Valley as the toughest place to play. Sometimes, it can make opponents feel as if they are sinking into an actual swamp, ready to be swallowed alive by actual Gators. The playing surface, with rabid fans close to the field, is below sea level - so green opponents literally get that sinking feeling. And if you forget where you are, there is a recognizable “This is… The Swamp” sign that marks Florida fans’ territory. But there’s also a tangible history at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, where Heisman winners Steve Spurrier, Danny Wuerffel and Tim Tebow are commemorated.
4. Ohio Stadium (Ohio State)
Ohio Stadium has the nation’s most-famous shape, “The Horseshoe,” which holds 102,329 - the nation’s fourth-largest stadium. No, it’s not The Big House at Michigan, the Buckeyes’ biggest rival, but it’s still one of the nation’s premiere venues. Ohio State has its own big history, including Woody Hayes and his signature ballcap that was a fixture on the stadium’s sideline from 1951-78, during which time the Buckeyes won three national titles and had greats like two-time Heisman winner Archie Griffin. The stadium has had some makeovers and is no longer a horseshoe. But the feeling within its walls has remained the same with a fanbase as rabid as they come. When the ‘i’ is dotted in “Script Ohio” on the field, it feels like the quintessential college football afternoon.
3. Notre Dame Stadium (Notre Dame)
The aura in South Bend is off the charts. Even in down seasons, of which the Irish have had plenty recently, it’s still a big deal to go into Notre Dame Stadium and win. We’ve seen Syracuse, Connecticut and, most recently, South Florida claim wins at Notre Dame and call them landmarks for their programs - even if they came against less-than-stellar Irish teams. That’s because Notre Dame Stadium is rich in history and tradition, which includes the famous “Play Like a Champion Today” sign that players smack as they go on and off the field and trademark diagonally striped end zone pattern and the Irish Guard. There’s also Touchdown Jesus, to whom fans pray for successful Irish seasons. Hey, it’s where Rudy played. Any questions?
2. Michigan Stadium (Michigan)
For the Wolverines, sheer size is only part of what makes the “Big House” one of the nation’s premiere venues - not just its largest. But size does matter. The season opener against Connecticut in 2010 hosted 113,090, the largest crowd to watch a college football game in over six decades. All Michigan crowds are in excess of 100,000 - most settling in around 110,000 - in Ann Arbor, which has only 114,000 residents. But then again, UM football is much of what defines Ann Arbor as one of the nation’s top college football towns. More than just the size of the crowds, there’s the massive bowl that gives it a unique look, the “Go Blue!” sign everyone jumps to jump, the love-it-or-hate-it fight song and the players scampering around in winged helmets. That’s enough to make 114,000 people smile.
1. Rose Bowl (UCLA)
As the home to the UCLA Bruins, the Rose Bowl is a stadium that’s far from campus, old and creaky and always half full. But as the host of the Rose Bowl, the stadium transforms into the Emerald City from “The Wizard of Oz” where dreams come true and the game is played under perfect blue skies as the sun sets behind the gorgeous hills that surround the stadium. With a capacity of approximately 105,000 and a history of hosting the “Granddaddy of Them All” since 1923, this isn’t just a stadium, it’s the Mecca of college football fans.
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