Image Credit: @CFBCampusTour
We are doing a Q&A series with Mike (@CFBCampusTour) about his experiences and goals of visiting all 130 FBS stadium to watch a game that we all love – college football. What we’ll do here is a few generic questions, then a deep dive into each conference to talk about their stadiums. Mike has 42 stadiums yet to go. He usually rents a car that he drives to and from the airport in, and also sleeps in. We at Fifth Quarter hope we can help Mike get some better experiences with some friendly tailgates, food suggestions, and much more.
What are the Top 5 stadiums you have left?
When you’re a “Stadium Connoisseur” like myself, you can find something to enjoy at every stadium you visit. So far, I’ve seen a game in 88 of the 130 FBS stadiums and the experiences have been incredible. While I’m excited to see each of the remaining 42, there are 5 stadiums I’m looking forward to visiting the most:
Ohio Stadium was built in 1922 and holds 100,000+ fans. “The Horseshoe” is such a classic venue and one of the premiere stadiums in all of college football. I’ve been “saving” OSU for the “right” game and the time has finally come in 2020. How about the Michigan game on November 28th? Can’t do any better than that!
The backdrop of Maverik Stadium is the snowcapped mountains in Logan, Utah. It has an intimate setting, with a capacity of 25,000 and the fans on right on top of the field. I’m waiting for the 2020 Mountain West to drop in mid-March to find out when I can go. I’m hoping for a Friday night game vs San Diego State. Or I could wait until 10/1/21 when the Aggies host in-state rival BYU. It falls on my birthday and would be a great way to spend it.
Neyland Stadium is another 100k+ venue. I’ve been inside – it is cavernous! I’d love to be there when the crowd is checkered in orange and white with “Rocky Top” blaring. Any SEC opponent would be special, but I’m focused on September 26, 2020. Given the history with Florida, this early season match-up looks like a good possibility.
Kidd-Brewer Stadium (aka “The Rock”) is way up in the Appalachian Mountains in Boone, North Carolina. The Mountaineers have built their program into a Group of 5 juggernaut and finished #20 in the CFP rankings in 2019. They have set the standard in the Sunbelt and have hosted the conference championship game in its first two years. If they do it again in ’20, I plan on being there.
I’ve visited Jordan-Hare Stadium several times and it just feels like a special place. Even on non-game days, it has that kind of historic vibe. Like Ohio State, I’ve been “saving” Auburn for a great game. Though they host defending champ LSU on November 21st in 2020, I’m saving it for the most iconic game possible. If all goes according to plan, the 2021 Iron Bowl against Alabama will be the 130th and final game I need in my stadium quest. I sure hope that’s how things play out.
During each game, I post a “Shot of the Night” photo on my Twitter account. The angle is the same as these photos that I have already. It will be amazing to get my photo in these 5 venues with a full crowd and bright lights. Can we fast forward to the 2020 season already!?!? I CAN’T WAIT!
What was your worst stadium experience? Would you ever “redo” the 1st experience?
Overall, the vast majority of my trips have been outstanding. Everywhere I go, fans want me to see their home team/stadium in the best light possible. That has been the case 99% of the time. There are two experiences that stand out which I consider to have been the least enjoyable: Iowa State and Vanderbilt.
In 2018, I was lined up to see an Iowa-Iowa State double-header in Week 1 of the new season. Iowa had a day game vs Northern Illinois in Iowa City and Iowa State had a night game vs South Dakota State in Ames. It’s a two hour drive from Kinnick Stadium to Jack Trice Stadium, so the timeline worked perfectly. At the conclusion of the Iowa game, I jumped in my rental car and blazed down Interstate 80 towards Ames. I was fortunate to make it with time to spare before kickoff.
The pregame atmosphere was electric with tornado warning sirens blaring (since the Cyclones were coming!) and the stadium was lit.
The Cyclones scored on their opening drive, with Kyle Kempt hitting Deshaunte Jones for a 55 yard TD to take a 7-0 lead. With 10:55 still remaining in the first quarter, the teams left the field due to inclement weather.
There was lightning in the area and NCAA policy states: “that play be suspended if there is lightning within 8 miles of the stadium. It requires a 30 minute delay, but this may vary because the time count will restart if a lightning strike occurs within the 8 mile radius. After a 2 hour and 24 minute delay, the game was canceled.
Vanderbilt was the “worst”, but for a much different reason. The weather in Nashville was perfect and it was a sellout crowd:
Not only was the weather not an issue, the game was played to its completion. The problem, in my view, was that Georgia Bulldog fans had completely taken over Vanderbilt Stadium. This was Week 1 in 2019, and I figured the season home opener would be packed with Commodore fans – especially since it was a conference game. With Atlanta to Nashville being such an easy/quick flight and Vandy season ticket holders selling their seats for profit, the crowd was easily 80% Dawg fans.
Why do I care what percentage of fans represent each team? I want to see the home team fans supportive and enthusiastic when I visit their school. Who knows, it might be the only game I see there in my life. So when Georgia smashed Vanderbilt 30-6 and the crowd barked like dogs the entire second half, I was disappointed. No slight to Georgia fans AT ALL – I could not have been more impressed by their passion, loyalty and devotion to their team. All schools should be so lucky to have that kind of following. Here they are celebrating in the 4th quarter:
Notice how there are a bunch of empty seats beneath the Press Box? That’s where Vandy fans are supposed to be. This game left such an impression on me that I canceled my scheduled trip to Tennessee for Week 6. Why? They were also playing Georgia! Can you imagine 100,000 fans in Neyland Stadium in all red? It would have been insanity!
So would I go back and redo my first experience”? Despite these prior experiences, the answer, without hesitation, is yes. The fun of traveling to games and making your schedule far in advance is that you never know what’s going to happen. I obviously can’t control weather and you’d think if you could get a full game played in Iowa City that you’d also have similar result in Ames, right? With regards to Vanderbilt, I guess it was somewhat my fault not being in tune enough with how Georgia fans traveled. It was something I had to see to believe.
Iowa State is playing a Thursday home game on 10/29 vs Kansas State, and I absolutely plan on being there. I do not include Iowa State in my current 88 “Stadium Game” total because the game was not completed. So I have to go back regardless to add to my list. I’m crossing my fingers that the weather next October will cooperate.
I do not have any immediate plans to return to Vanderbilt, since I have 42 other schools I “need” to see games at beforehand. If/when that occurs, I will plan ahead much better to avoid a similar result. Hopefully, an opportunity will arise in the future so I can see another game in Vanderbilt Stadium. I’d love to replace my 2019 visit with a more positive experience.