College football stadiums are, as a class, among the best sporting venues in the world. Oh sure, many of the world’s great soccer palaces probably have longer histories. Many of NASCAR’s tracks dwarf even the largest college venues in terms of sheer size. Heck, devoted college sports fans are really doing themselves a disservice if they don’t make at least one trip to Cameron Indoor for a basketball game.
But I submit that there’s no better place in the world than an SEC football stadium on a crisp Saturday afternoon in those moments right before toe meets leather. Or on a Saturday night with the score tied and only seconds remaining on the clock, the bourbon having long since run out and ninety-five thousand voices soon to follow. It’s about as magical as anything I’ve ever seen. None of us gets to choose how we leave this world, but if I had my druthers I'd peace out from an overdose of pure adrenaline right as the final horn sounded on a last-second Bulldog victory over a fierce rival in Athens. Nobody would even notice until after the Chapel bell stopped ringing, I expect.
But not all temples of college football are equal. So I present to you the question, Dawg Sports reader: what is the best college football venue to which you have traveled? I am excluding Sanford Stadium, not because it’s not the best venue for college football in America (it is), or because I am biased (I am), but because that’s just too easy an answer.
Leaving aside the field in the Classic City, my vote is for Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge. I can’t say that Red Stick is underrated as a venue. It’s reputation is legendary. But the fact that the place may not live up to the legend doesn’t mean that it isn’t a truly unbelievable experience. I can’t say that LSU fans are drunker or more boisterous than any other college football fans, but I can say that when they get truly cranked up, even in the daytime, you can feel the noise. LSU fans are also great fun, staggering out of their tailgates long enough to slur "Hey! We gon’ kick yo ass today!", then pausing to ask "y’all hungry?"* Also Baton Rouge as a college town is better than most. It’s sad that under the current SEC scheduling plan that ‘Dawg fans will get to travel to Louisiana in 2018, but perhaps not again until at least 2032 (LSU will visit Athens in 2025, assuming we’re not all playing soccer by then).
My vote for the worst venue in college football? Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, South Carolina. It’s not so much the stadium itself. It’s a perfectly functional venue. But that’s it. Devoid of charm, all but barren of history, and situated in the middle of a parking lot in a city made up of parking lots, Williams-Brice is Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium with better sight lines. It is the Tab of college football stadiums.
The most overrated venue venue to which I have traveled? Neyland Stadium. I will grant that the "Vol Navy" is a cool tradition, and Knoxville in the fall is a nice place (with some underrated restaurants), but the stadium itself when I visited was old, decrepit, and not particularly raucous. Obnoxious, yes. Raucous, no. I understand there have been some improvements, and the last few years may have made the hill folk better hosts. But I have very little positive first hand experience with Neyland.
I gave serious consideration to Auburn on this one. Because the flight of the eagle is, as Kyle Commenter pointed out, about the most over-hyped moment in collegiate athletics. Really, it ain't that big a deal. It's called falconry and it's been around for thousands of years. But the Auburn fans I met while actually in Auburn were surprisingly cordial, downtown Auburn is a quaint little village which seemed like a lot of fun on a Saturday night (Milledgeville seems an apt comparison), and the stadium itself is not a bad place to watch a game. I have to go shower now.
I considered naming a "most underrated", but honestly I kind of came up blank. Faurot Field at Missouri? I did make one trip to Kenan Memorial, the stadium at the University of North Carolina and found it to be a picturesque locale. But it's smaller, and while the views of the surrounding Carolina pine hills are nice, I wasn't blown away. Suggestions?
Feel free to leave your superlatives in the comments, and . . .
*Yes, this happened. It was jambalaya, and there was crawfish, sausage, and maybe alligator in it. Yes, if I’d spilled my bowl I would have eaten the remainder off the grass.