Heinz Field: Home of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Pittsburgh Panthers. Typically, I am fervently against universities that choose to play their home games in a pro stadium. Shifting the action off campus robs gameday of the authentic pageantry that makes college football special. However, Pittsburgh makes it work. The Panther football program has enough tradition, fan following, and connection with the city to keep the Pitt magic alive.
There are certain gems along the college football landscape, and one of the finest sits amongst the urban sprawl of Atlanta. The Georgia Institute of Technology houses the oldest active stadium in the sport. Open in 1913, Bobby Dodd Stadium has hosted some of college football’s most memorable moments and historic sports figures. The stadium’s namesake, Bobby Dodd, is celebrated for his high levels of success. The coach of the year trophy is named after him. Coach John Heisman (yes, THAT Heisman) is so revered that his name now adorns one of sports’ most coveted trophies.
Loud. Rowdy. Hostile. Carter-Finley Stadium can be described as any of these. Gameday in Raleigh is a dynamic event and tailgating is the cornerstone of it all. Circling the perimeter of the stadium is a party that stretches to the tree lines and fences. Each setup offers a flurry of activity coupled with an array of traditional foods and southern delicacies. The fans receive their first glimpse of entertainment as the NC State football buses drop the team off for their traditional walk to the stadium known as the Walk of Champions. Fans cram and cheer together as they sneak a peek at their beloved Wolfpack on their way into Carter-Finely.
Slap on some khaki shorts and a baby blue button down. It’s time for Carolina football. Okay, not everyone here dresses this way, but enough to remind you that this is football in the south. One thing is for certain – the gameday experience in Chapel Hill is one of the best.
Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium is one of the few college football stadiums named after a company. But, that does not mean that it has sold out in the quality of atmosphere. The city of Louisville experiences a bit of an identity crisis as it is the southern point of the north and the northern part of the south. A sign providing all the different pronunciations of the city welcomes you into the stadium and it illustrates the identity issues this place possesses. The stadium is located on a sports complex that houses every sporting arena imaginable from swimming to lacrosse. The walk up to the stadium is interesting as one side reveals the many sporting arenas and a Papa John’s pizza joint (of course), while the other side is grossly industrial. It’s as if you are walking on the border between two different countries.