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.
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.
Mix together typical American homes with welcoming folks, well-appointed lawns, tree lined streets, a dash of cornfield and a sprinkle of charm and you have West Lafayette, Indiana. Ross-Ade Stadium lies in this town as a landmark at Purdue. It falls in line beautifully with the red-bricked architecture that is contagious throughout campus. Visitors get a sense of West Lafayette’s midwestern appeal as soon as they begin their search for parking because many of the locals happily open their lawns to cars from out-of-town areas.
Any college football fan is proud of Michigan Stadium. It is the largest football stadium in the world with a capacity of 109,901. However, most games surpass 110,000. Ann Arbor is another classic college town filled with coffee houses, restaurants, and little shops everywhere you look. The stadium is a huge fixture on campus. But, when approaching it, you wonder how it could be so large. From the outside, it looks far from daunting. Yet, when walking inside, you realize why it is nicknamed “The Big House” – the stadium is dug deep into the ground. Ground level is roughly row 70 or 80, so when I walked in, it felt like I was falling because there was so much beneath me.
“Go Green!” “Go White!” All throughout the campus on gameday, Spartan fans see-saw this chant back and forth. The echoes converge on Spartan Stadium where one half of the arena blasts “Go Green!” while the other responds with “Go White!” The cheer is simple, but piercing and at times, intimidating. Watch the Spartan band as they pound and march their way toward Spartan Stadium – Sparty leading the way. They pass the nearly 10 foot tall Sparty statue that has become an icon on campus and a famous place in the area to grab a photo opportunity.
Somewhere between a cornfield and nowhere lies Champaign, Illinois. It’s a great college town with mounds of enthusiasm and passion for their team. On gameday, tailgating takes place in open fields where music blasts, games are played, and footballs are tossed. You might even catch the band perfroming a quick drumline or “Oskee Wow Wow” before they make their march into Memorial Stadium.
Due to basketball’s domination in the state of Indiana and a lack of winning seasons in the past decade, the Hoosier football program is starving for attention in the Big Ten. However, they have all the ingredients in Bloomington to be successful. John Mellencamp, an IU alum, donated a beautiful practice facility and the campus itself is very attractive. Memorial Stadium is hard to miss on campus. It’s old-fashioned press box and extremely high facades seem to go right up into the sky. Once you enter the stadium, there are winding paths and hills that provide many different perspectives of the game. Recently, Memorial Stadium has undergone a facelift with world class weight lifting facilities and added seats that closed one end of the stadium creating a horseshoe. All these pieces make Memorial Stadium primed to be a cauldron of excitement.
Fear the Turtle. This slogan may not appear daunting, but upon entering a packed Byrd Stadium on Saturdays in the fall, it becomes quickly clear why the turtle holds so much power. Built in 1950, Capital One Field at Maryland Stadium houses an authentic and classic college style. Constructed as a horseshoe with a triple deck on one side, the arena certainly holds the capacity to intimidate.
Since 1924, Minnesota had been playing on campus in the rustic, yet deteriorating Memorial Stadium. Due to its need for renovation and the lack of state funding, the university chose to abandon the classic old stadium and move the Gopher football program into the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome being built in downtown Minneapolis. Since 1982, Minnesota has been playing its games in the oversized bubble surrounded by steel and concrete.