I am a very lucky guy, let’s start this out right there. I am paid to travel to some great places watch sporting events and talk about them for a living. My college buddies used to joke that I won the “job lottery”. I love my job and work very had to be good at what I do, but I also recognize how fortunate I am to be able to do what I do. One of the aspects of my job over the years has been to cover college football. In fact, I have covered college football in some way, shape or form at every job I’ve held over the past 26 years. Whether as a radio/television reporter, a sideline reporter or now as a play by play guy, I’ve gotten to watch some great college football up close from some of the best and most iconic venues in the game.
Since everybody loves a good list, I thought I would rank for you my Top 10 Favorite College Football Venues. I’m only ranking places I’ve been and taking into account the venue, atmosphere and quality of football I’ve witnessed there. This is a very subjective list.
1. Notre Dame Stadium-South Bend, Indiana is nothing much to see, until you get to campus. Notre Dame is exactly what you think of when you think of a classic college campus. The Quad, The Grotto, Touchdown Jesus and of course Notre Dame Stadium. The history, the crowd, the press box and tailgating outside all add up to the best game day atmospthere/venue in College Football. I’ve been there as both a fan and to work. I’ve seen Utah, BYU and Michigan play the Irish all were outstanding experiences.
2. Ben Hill Griffin Stadium-It’s better known as the “Swamp”, affectionately given that title by the Head Ball Coach. The Swamp is simply the loudest and most intimidating venue for college football I’ve ever been in. I worked in Jacksonville, Florida from 1995-2001, perhaps the greatest years of football played in Ben Hill Griffin, with Steve Spurrier as Head Coach. I was able to see some of the greatest games in college football during that era up close and in person. At the time it sat 83 thousand fans, now it’s up to 88 thousand fans. My ears used to ring for hours after covering a game in Gainesville.
3. Memorial Stadium-I’ve maintained for the longest time that the most loyal and passionate fan base in college football is found in the state of Nebraska. There are no other Division 1 football programs in the state and zero professional sports teams. All they have is Nebraska Football and worship it. Their house of worship is Memorial Stadium, an 85 thousand seat sea of red on fall Saturday’s. It becomes the third largest city in the state on game day’s . “Husker Power” echos from all corners of the stadium just before kickoff. It’s impressive.
4. Neyland Stadium-I only got here once. It was for a Florida/Tennessee match up in the mid-90’s. I had seen it on television countless times growing up. The Stadium is simply enormous, seating officially over 102 thousand fans, it’s record is 109 thousand for the 2004 Florida game. It’s large and loud and you can’t forget the signature orange and white checkerboard endzones. Perhaps the coolest aspect of Neyland Stadium on game day is actually outside not inside the stadium. Neyland sits on the Tennessee River and Vols fans form the “Orange Armada” of boats the “tailgate” on the water and pull up to the stadium.
5. Rice Eccles Stadium-I’ll admit my bias here, but Rice Eccles Stadium as a venue and game day atmosphere stacks up with many of the big boys in the south and midwest. The views from both the east side and west side of the press box are spectacular. While it is much smaller than the other venues on my list, that adds to the game day feel. I’m spoiled that I get to work and do games in this gorgeous facility on a regular basis, but it really is one of the best I’ve been in.
6. Doak Campbell Stadium-I visited this building a couple of dozen times in my years working in Jacksonville, Florida. 80 thousand strong pack the House that Bowden Built on Saturday afternoons in the fall. I was lucky enough to see the likes of Brooks, Warrick, Coles, Dunn, Weinke and other play here. They also have one of the great pregame tradition in college football, with Chief Osceola. Take a look..
7. Tiger Stadium-They say a night game in Baton Rouge is about as good as it gets in college football. It’s pretty impressive. Tiger Stadium, better known as Death Valley, is loud and liquored up each and every game day. Plus they have the coolest mascot in all of college sports, Mike, a real Royal Bengal Tiger, who watches from his sideline cage.
8. Husky Stadium-Many years ago I did a radio show with Jacksonville Jaguar QB Mark Brunell, who was a Washington grad. He told me that if I ever get the chance that I should take in a game day at his alma mater. He told me that Husky Stadium on a sunny Saturday afternoon was outstanding. Well, fast forward 22 years and I’ve been to Husky Stadium now twice to call football games, sadly neither have been Sunny or in the afternoon. But the venue and setting is fantastic still. One of these days maybe I’ll get that sunny Saturday.
9. Michigan Stadium-The Big House is exactly that, BIG. Largest in all of college football and seating more than 107 thousand fans of Big Blue on Fall Saturday’s. I’ve been twice, both Utah wins over Michigan. It’s an impressive sight to behold, though not overly loud or intimidating. The place oozes history and tradition, plus the best band and fight song in college athletics.
10. The Rose Bowl-I always tell people there’s a difference between the Rose Bowl in the regular season and the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day. I’ve only been to the Rose Bowl for regular season games against it’s regular tenant, the UCLA Bruins. The setting is unbelievable at the base of the San Gabriel Mountains in Pasadena. The field is always immaculate and you can’t help but think of the history and games played in the building. Plus I got to call the greatest rushing performance in the 96 years that football has been played there. Joe Williams’ 332 yards against the Bruins in 2016. Hoping one day to be back and working from the booth with the Utes on New Year’s Day.