Peden Stadium in Athens, Ohio is another hidden gem of college football that few people know about. Only an hour south of Columbus, Athens appears as a cute brick laden college community, but only after the highway dwindles from three lanes, to two, and down to one. The campus is visible from the highway and as soon as the exit for Ohio U is reached, the stadium appears in the near distance. Tents lined up across the street and adjacent to the Hocking River host tailgaters that sprinkle the lawns with enthusiasm. Just a short drive from the stadium is Court Street – an all brick road brimming with fans weaving in and out of shops and filling up on novelties and gear for gameday. Ohio is known for its party-school status and traces of this were evident along Court Street.
Central Michigan University is an unexpected surprise hidden among the nothingness in the middle of Michigan. Driving into Mount Pleasant provides immediate clues that you have arrived onto a college campus. Folks decked in maroon and gold trickle around the area and it all flows toward Kelly Shorts Stadium where just outside awaits a massive party in preparation for game action. Live bands, loud music, dancing on trucks, and other common college behavior electrifies the area around the stadium. It’s a concentrated gaggle of young adults crammed together making it difficult to walk through and get to the stadium.
Lost between the shadows of Michigan Stadium’s 111,000 seat “Big House” and the metropolitan area of Detroit, Rynearson Stadium sits quietly off the campus of Eastern Michigan University. With the Wolverines only ten minutes away, EMU really gets lost in the shuffle. It’s almost like a gathering place where fans who couldn’t get a ticket to the Michigan game can chat about the Big Ten.
The smoke off the mountains welcomes visitors to Knoxville. These massive natural structures highlight the beauty of this Tennessee town. The Tennessee River that runs along Neyland Stadium adds to this picturesque venue and is the site of a tradition known as the Volunteer Navy. Here, a bevy of boats of all sizes line up along the river side to engage in pregame tailgating. Neyland Stadium is one of only two stadiums accessible by boat, and Vol fans have turned this into one of college football’s most unique traditions.
Although Missouri football lacks a bit in tradition compared to its SEC siblings, Memorial Stadium offers plenty of atmosphere. Driving along Stadium Boulevard, parked cars are lined up for miles creating a pathway to the stadium. Welcoming fans into the arena is a large statue of Don Faurot for whom the field is named after. Faurot coached at Missouri and left a great legacy during the mid 1900s. However, the fans have seen mounds of frustration over the years and their mood reflects that.
Although the experience at Scheumann Stadium doesn’t compare to the Big Ten, the interest of Ball State athletics still shines through the hardy visitors that come to view their Cardinal football team. Large banners reading, “Go Ball State” and “Welcome to the Red Zone” greet fans arriving into Muncie. The Ball State band named, “The Pride of Mid America,” plays the fight song as they march outside the stadium just prior to kickoff. They are arguably the most positive aspect of the Ball State experience as they play and sing their school songs proudly. Following the band is the Cardinal mascot scooting by on a golf cart and snapping photos with fans. During the game, he mingles with fans in the stands and plays a large part of the atmosphere.
Nebraska fans are billed as being some of the most knowledgeable and respectful in the country. Memorial Stadium is noted as being a top ten stadium to visit on a college football Saturday. The stories about Nebraska’s devotion to their athletics are endless and after my experience in Lincoln, Nebraska, it can be safely said that these statements are absolutely true.
Driving into Boulder, Colorado is a memorable sight. With the Rocky Mountains to your left and the famous red tiled roofs of Colorado’s campus blanketing the city, you get a sense of something special. Set against the Flatirons, Folsom Field provides some of the best views in college football. Parking was a challenge, but once I was set, the tailgating atmosphere proved to be worth the parking fees.
In a place where the dorms are the most densely populated area of the entire state, Wyoming football would hardly seem like much of an attraction. However, the Cowboys are all that the state has in the way of sports. The most interesting fact about War Memorial Stadium is that it has the highest altitude of any Division I-A football field at 7,220 feet. Driving from Denver to Laramie is a bit of an adventure. Civilization begins to get diluted in the wide-open ranges and mountain peaks. Soon, the mountains are gone and all that remains are rock formations and open spaces. You have reached Wyoming. With the mountains gone, it is natural to think that you have descended. However, the roads rise to meet the mountains and it is evidenced by the ear popping that occurs along I-25. It is wide-open, sparse land that suddenly opens up to a cute college community. The stadium is a beautiful venue lined with pine trees and horizon lines meeting the blue sky. Gameday in Laramie can be a pretty big deal since choices on what to do in Wyoming are quite limited. Football season is counted down on many Cowboy calendars across the state.
Hughes Stadium is set far from the campus of Colorado State in Fort Collins, Colorado. The setting is amazing as it rests up against the Rocky Mountain foothills. But, it sits all alone. Looking at it, you wouldn’t imagine that the stadium could provide such a wild atmosphere. Surrounding the stadium are acres of land used for parking. The scene is quite chaotic…much like a rock concert. Police pointing cars in all directions, vehicles bumping along on the rocky grass and drunken college students swarming the area. Night games are commonplace at Hughes Stadium, which only gives the student body more time to fill their student bodies with alcohol. The lawn outside the stadium is an all-evening party up to kickoff. The sun disappears behind the mountains and its game time.