Historic CFB Bucket List: Archbold Stadium (Syracuse)

by | Mar 28, 2022 | ACC, CFB Campus Tour, Fifth Quarter, Syracuse

Name:  Archbold Stadium

School:  Syracuse University

Opened:  September 25, 1907

Closed:  November 11, 1978

Original Seating Capacity:  30,000

Cost:  $400,000

Team Record at Archbold:  265-112-20

For college football fans under 45 years of age, the Carrier Dome is the only stadium that we’ve ever associated with Syracuse football.  One of only two domed stadiums in FBS, it feels like an absolute necessity to play indoors given the frigid weather that occurs yearly in the central New York.  But did you know that Syracuse played outdoors for more than 70 years in the “Greatest Athletic Arena in America” prior to the Carrier Dome?  It’s true!  That venue was named Archbold Stadium:

The need for a first rate venue at Syracuse derived from the growth and success the university was experiencing as a whole.  At the turn of the 20th century, campus construction and expansion transformed Syracuse into one of the finest institutions of higher learning in the US.  To keep pace, upgrading “University Oval” (the site of Syracuse football since 1895), became a major priority.  This initiative became a reality when John D. Archbold, vice president of Standard Oil and the president of SU’s Board of Trustees, gifted the university $600,000 for the project.

Archbold Stadium covered 6+ acres on campus and was completed in less than a year.  It contained 20,000 cubic yards of concrete, supplanted Harvard Stadium as the nation’s largest concrete venue and was also the first complete oval sports stadium.  Its main entrance (west end) defined its character, featuring a huge 40-foot arch flanked by two towers.  At midfield on the south side, a 196-foot grandstand covered an area comprised of 3,000 premium seats:

The construction of this world-class stadium helped propel Syracuse football to new heights.  Not only did it raise the program’s profile, the team was particularly successful on their new home field.  Syracuse compiled a home record of 265-112-20, which included some impressive stretches during the 71 years they played at Archbold.  From 1915-27, they went 61-10-6.  From 1958-68, they won 47 games and only lost 6.  And their 1959 team not only went 5-0 at home, but went 11-0 overall on their way to the National Championship.

The list of players who called Archbold Stadium home is incredible.  Jim Brown was a unanimous All-American in 1956 and many consider him to be the greatest running back in NFL history.  Ernie Davis was the leader of the 1959 title team and the 1961 Heisman Trophy winner.  John Mackey became an NFL Hall of Fame tight end with the Baltimore Colts.  Floyd Little was the only 3-time All-American running back in Syracuse history and a 5 time NFL Pro Bowler for the Denver Broncos.  Larry Csonka was an All-American fullback and member of the 1972 Miami Dolphins 17-0 Super Bowl team.  Art Monk led Syracuse in receiving from 1977-1979 and became a Hall of Fame wide receiver with the Washington Redskins.  A murderer’s row of ELITE talent called Archbold home!

But after serving Syracuse so well for decades, the stadium became a liability by 1970 due to its declining condition.  It was no longer up to par with other top schools and stricter fire codes forced a reduction in capacity as well.  Demotion to Division I-AA became a distinct possibility for Syracuse football unless a more modern facility were constructed.  As a result, the 1978 season would be the last for Archbold Stadium.  The final home game was played was on November 11, 1978 vs Navy, a 20-17 victory for SU.  In 1979, the stadium was torn down to allow for construction of the Carrier Dome on the same site:

As a college football “game traveler” who’s attended a game at all 130 FBS stadiums (as well as 1/3 of FCS stadiums), I would have loved the opportunity to see Archbold Stadium.  Imagine entering the stadium through the giant 40-foot concrete archway on the west end.  Or sitting underneath the large covered grandstand while braving the elements in late October/early November.  Letting your mind wander inside of 100+ year old venues is an amazing feeling.  While modern amenities are nice, nothing the trumps historical value.

Harvard Stadium, Franklin Field and Schoellkopf Field are relics from the same era/region that have managed to survive and withstand the test of time.  Last season I was able to see a game at all 3 venues and those are memories I will cherish for the rest of my life.  Of course we can’t rewrite history, but it goes without saying that Archbold Stadium is near the top of my all-time historic bucket list.

Look for more articles on historic bucket list stadiums throughout the off-season and follow/interact with me on both Twitter and Instagram at @CFBcampustour.  I’ll leave you with some additional photos of Archbold Stadium to enjoy (courtesy of Archbold Stadium: An Extended Prelude):

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