Unique brands of tailgating are a college football tradition on all campuses. But, nothing compares to Ole Miss. The Grove is a ten acre space shaded by oaks, elms, and magnolias providing an elegant backdrop for thousands of Ole Miss tailgaters. Sporting News calls it “The Holy Grail of tailgating sites.” People stake their claim the night before and set up elaborate tailgates on gameday.
Ryan Field in Evanston, Illinois is known as the “Wrigley Field” of college football. It doesn’t quite have the history of the Cubs, but boasts a very classic and old school stadium atmosphere. For a while now, NU has been calling themselves Chicago’s Big Ten Team. Attempts to market this slogan are popping up around the city, and the evidence is beginning to show with more rumps in the seats in Evanston. Perhaps because Chicagoans are slowly realizing that Northwestern is true Big Ten football. It’s the real deal, especially lately.
Often regarded as the Big Ten’s wildest and thrilling venue, Camp Randall Stadium never disappoints. Once a Civil War training site, this massive structure is crammed in a beautiful residential area among dorms, frat houses, campus buildings and bars. The Camp is the perfect college venue with views of the state capital and Madison’s surrounding lakes (Mendota and Menona). The walk up Breese Terrace right before kickoff is one of my favorites as herds of red and white walk in the shadows of Camp Randall’s upper deck. The frat houses along this side are spilling over with college kids and extracurricular activity. As this side heats up, the band is finishing their pre-game concert at Union South on the Randall Avenue side. From here, they march proudly into the stadium under the iconic Camp Randall arch while creating a path through awestruck fans.
The scene in Kalamazoo is one of those that gives the smaller venues in college football a great reputation. The fans that fill Waldo Stadium are lively, devoted, and help to make Western Michigan football relevant.
This is a classic example of a place where sports dominate the entertainment category. On gameday, you might hear announcers joke that “you can leave the keys in your tractor” because everyone in Iowa is at the game. Pre-game tailgating is fantastic and the buzz on the streets in Iowa City is all about the team. Many fans point out visiting colors and start their battle cries and chants. Walking up to Kinnick Stadium, you see a beautiful brick façade that lines the outside. Rows of corn greet visitors to the main entrance along with a statue of Hawkeye hero and 1939 Heisman trophy winner, Nile Kinnick.
Some folks may react unfavorably about the move to InfoCision Stadium from the classic Rubber Bowl that hosted Zips games since 1940. However, the venerable old stadium required much repair, and the dream of a brand new facility on campus drew closer to reality. In 2009, Akron opened InfoCision Stadium and parked it right amongst the hotspots in campus. The excitement for this new arena certainly had justification. It towers high off the main strips in campus. Akron University has fallen into the rat race for the newer and better when it comes to stadiums. However, InfoCision Stadium, other than its name, has clung to many traditional aspects of what a college football atmosphere is all about.
Home of the Blues, Home of BBQ, and Home of the Tigers!
With few professional sports to root for, the Tigers are the tune of the town. While not situated in the wilds of the SEC, Memphis fans have that same southern charm mixed with fervent attitudes for their team.
Fayetteville rocks on Saturdays in the fall. There is certainly no shortage of passionate fans and tradition here at Arkansas which is evident as the team runs out of a hog pen through the band-crafted “A” into an intimidating atmosphere in Razorback Stadium. That intimidation factor begins pregame with pro style tailgating surrounding the perimeter of Arkansas’s massive SEC arena.
Jonesboro is one of those tiny college towns that comes alive on game day. Centennial Bank Stadium, playfully nicknamed the vault, is home to the Arkansas State red wolves.
A trip to Williams-Brice Stadium will satisfy all the elements of an electric SEC atmosphere. The energy that ripples through these stands is challenging to duplicate, and it can pulsate throughout Columbia on game day.