After spending 4 fun days in Hawaii during Week Zero to open the 2022 college football season, it was time to hit the road back on the mainland. Week 1 featured a full slate of games, with many teams opening their seasons on either Thursday or Friday. An ideal opportunity for a “game traveler” to stack multiple games in one week. And having completed my goal of seeing a game at all 131 FBS schools checked off last year meant I could go anywhere I’d like this season. Uncharted territory for me and almost reinvigorating as well.
Goal-oriented people always find a way to “move the goalposts” though, so attempting to attend a game at every FCS school seems like the natural progression. Heading into 2022, I’d seen a game at 47/130 FCS schools. If I were to go to 17 FCS games per year over the next 5 years, I would achieve this new goal. While it feels “attainable”, it’s definitely a ways off. With this new mission in mind I scheduled two FCS games during Week 1, as well as two FBS games.
Thursday night took me to Conway, Arkansas to watch Central Arkansas host Missouri State. Estes Stadium is the home of UCA football and is one of the most unique venues in the FCS. “The Stripes” refers to the purple and gray AstroTurf field, which is the only one of its kind in Division 1 football. Boise State, Coastal Carolina, Eastern Michigan and Eastern Washington all have solid colored turf field, but Estes Stadium is the only one that’s multi-colored:
What’s amazing to me is the strong feelings fans have, on both sides, regarding Estes Stadium. While many people love The Stripes, there are also people who are on the opposite side of the spectrum. Personally I love distinctive stadium features, so I enjoyed watching the game on this one of a kind playing surface. There were a lot of there big games I could have attended on the opening Thursday of the season, like the Backyard Brawl for example, but the draw of The Stripes was too much for a stadium “connoisseur” such as myself. No regrets though, as I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
Friday night’s game was in East Lansing, Michigan to check out Spartan Stadium. Michigan State hosted in-state foe Western Michigan at “The Woodshed”. When I choose games I not only consider the teams/stadiums, I also consider how often a team plays on weeknights. Typically the Big Ten always plays on Saturdays, so when that rare Friday game pops up, you almost always have to take advantage of it.
When you walk around Spartan Stadium, you know you’re in a big time college atmosphere. With 75,000 strong in attendance, the vibe was even more enhanced by the green and white “striping” of the stadium. Fans wore colors coinciding with their seat assignment and the stadium was sectioned off with alternating green and white. It made for quite the visual and was really a sight to behold:
Saturday featured the ultimate double-header for a San Diego native such as myself. San Diego State and the University of San Diego are only separated by 5 miles, so there’s always a chance see a game at both schools if the timing was right. Week 1 provided that reward with SDSU playing at 12:30pm and USD playing at 6pm. This was no ordinary season opener for the Aztecs either, as they opened their brand new 35,000 home venue. Snapdragon Stadium replaces beloved Jack Murphy/Qualcomm Stadium and is such a huge accomplishment for the city of San Diego.
The San Diego Chargers abandoned SD for Los Angeles largely due to the inability to secure public funding for a new stadium. The Chargers and SDSU were always co-tenants of Jack Murphy, so SDSU’s fortunes were tied to the Chargers. When the Chargers left town, SDSU’s home stadium future was in doubt. Ultimately an initiative was passed to build a new venue for SDSU, but stadium construction takes time obviously. So the Aztecs were forced to play their 2020 and 2021 home games in a soccer stadium in Carson, about 75 miles north of San Diego, while the old stadium was torn down and Snapdragon was constructed. A big sacrifice for everyone involved with the Aztec program, but one with a huge payoff.
Snapdragon and Jack Murphy are different in every way. “The Murph” was a multi-purpose venue (home for professional football and baseball) and held more than 70,000 fans. Snapdragon by contrast, is a football-only facility with half the capacity. It is expandable to 55,000 seats if the need to add becomes apparent. Snapdragon is also more open which provides a great view of the surrounding hills. Fans spent just as much time exploring their new home as they did watching the game. It’s a new era for San Diego State football and the stability Snapdragon Stadium provides their program is immense.
With the SDSU game ending around 4pm, I made the quick 5 mile drive for the University of San Diego nightcap. USD plays in Torero Stadium, which hosts both football and soccer. It holds 6,000 fans and has a very intimate setting. Every seat is right on top of the action and you also have a phenomenal view of both the campus and the ocean on a clear night:
Getting to explore Torero Stadium on a warm San Diego evening was a lot of fun. It gave me time to enjoy the sights and sounds of being back in my hometown, but also to reflect on my first full week of travel for the 2022 season. It felt good to be back on the road and making progress on my new FCS goal. Not to mention my second game at Spartan Stadium and the grand opening of Snapdragon Stadium.
Week 2 brings 4 more games with the same format as Week 1. I’ll be at Missouri State on Thursday, UCF on Friday, Arkansas Saturday at 11am and Oklahoma State at 6:30pm. A bunch of flights, rental cars and driving, but well worth it to experience the greatest sport on Earth. Make sure you follow @CFBcampustour on Twitter to keep with all of my travels this season. Peace.