College Football Rankings 2012: The 20 Rowdiest Stadiums in the Nation
College football is home to some of the rowdiest—and largest—sports crowds you can find anywhere.
College football fans are easily some of the most dedicated fans at any level of any sport, and that fervent loyalty frequently translates into a party-like atmosphere on game day. Before long, a school develops a reputation not simply for what happens on the field, but also for what happens in the stands.
Here's our list of the 20 rowdiest groups of loyal, dedicated and loud fans to fill up a stadium on Saturdays in the fall.
The Best of the Rest
Division II Grand Valley State's Lubbers Stadium (photo: Grand Valley State University athletics)
Before we delve into our top 20, here are some of the most rowdy stadiums from outside the FBS.
Division III: St. John's University
For love of the game. Division III players go to school not to play football, but to get an education. Heck, these guys don't even get scholarships!
For a stadium that holds under 8,000 fans, Clemens Stadium is still an amped up place on Saturdays. The stadium is full of excitement and has even been recognized by Sports Illustrated in 1999 for its unmatched atmosphere.
Division II: Grand Valley State University
It wasn't all that long ago that Grand Valley State was a relative unknown, even in Division II. But a guy by the name of Brian Kelly changed all that.
Since the time Kelly became coach in 1991, GVSU has expanded Lubbers Stadium from a paltry few thousand seats to nearly 11,000 for 2012. The record attendance is 16,467—which was 93 percent above its seating capacity at the time in 2009.
The die-hard fans at this university of 25,000 students have created one of the loudest stadiums in Division II and have spurred their team on to four national championships since 2002. With the student section perched mere feet from the field of play, it's no wonder the Lakers are 76-4 at home since 2000.
For an FCS program, 25,203 is a pretty big stadium. It's even bigger than a few FBS stadiums. Washington-Grizzly Stadium is also home to the best non-FBS game day atmosphere anywhere in the country.
With so many fans so close to the field, there's no other lower-division venue like it. Opposing teams have learned that the hard way, as the Grizzlies have reached the national championship game seven times since 1995.
No. 20 Oklahoma State
The Cowboys have really come a long way over these past few seasons.
Head coach Mike “I'm a Man” Gundy has led his team to its first-ever Big 12 title and the BCS bowl berth that goes along with it.
The Cowboys even managed to knock off a darn good Stanford team in the 2012 Fiesta Bowl.
Long viewed as “the other school” in the state of Oklahoma when it comes to football, Oklahoma State fans have relished every moment of their ascendency to the top of the Big 12, and nothing was sweeter than a blowout win against hated rival Oklahoma.
Cowboys fans showed their true colors last season, becoming an important part of their team's success and earning a place on our countdown of 20 rowdy stadiums.
No. 19 West Virginia
At first glance, West Virginia might seem to be one of the most rowdy of football stadiums, what with the vulgar signs and t-shirts, the ear-splitting noise and the blatant arson.
But West Virginia's rowdiness loses some points here because the Mountaineers in the stands have trouble sustaining their raucous behavior over the course of an entire season.
When the new head football coach calls out his own fans for not showing up at games, you can't blame us for thinking West Virginia doesn't belong among the rowdy elite.
No. 18 Boise State
Easily the smallest stadium on our list, Boise State's Bronco Stadium is home to blue turf, bitterly cold weather and some boisterous fans.
While the stadium itself barely cracks 30,000 seats, the fans that pack into this pint-sized stadium make sure that they treat the opponents to a environment that crowds twice the size can't match.
Boise State fans have gained a reputation as being relentless on the opposing team, and in perhaps the most famous incident, a few of those BSU fans almost managed to get Oregon's LeGarrette Blount to charge into the stands after a postgame altercation on the field.
Boise State fans have also come up with some bitingly witty signs over the years of BCS snubs, including last season's “Occupy BCS” movement.
No. 17 Nebraska
While Nebraska's home is nowhere near the size of Michigan Stadium or Beaver Stadium, the newest addition to the Big Ten does boasts one of the bigger stadiums in the conference, averaging 85,664 fans in attendance per home game in 2010.
The fans that pack Memorial Stadium every Saturday are known as the Sea of Red, and it doesn't take a Rhodes Scholar to figure out why. From top to bottom, end to end, Memorial Stadium is one giant mass of people dressed in bright, Nebraska red.
The steep incline of the stands also adds to a formidable environment for any visiting team, and the relentless corncob headgear-wearing fans are some of the loudest people in the nation.
After all, what else is there to do on a Saturday in the state of Nebraska?
No. 16 Clemson
Clemson's Memorial Stadium is the original “Death Valley,” and the name wasn't earned by being a nice place to visit.
Besides being located in an actual valley and next to a cemetery, Memorial Stadium is so difficult for opposing teams to score in that it earned the now-famous nickname from an opposing coach (according to legend).
After famous head coach Frank Howard began calling Memorial Stadium “Death Valley,” the name stuck.
Players now take the field after touching “Howard's Rock,” and the orange-clad faithful surrounding the field begin to build the noise to an impressive crescendo as the team runs down the hill and onto the field, making this stadium one of the most hostile environments in the ACC.
No. 15 Auburn
After what seemed like years of living in Alabama's shadow, Auburn finally broke through as a dominant force in its own right in 2010 with a BCS National Championship.
Auburn now has eight claimed national titles, and a big reason for the latest championship was the rabid, rowdy fan base that filled Jordan-Hare Stadium on Saturdays.
While falling short of Alabama's 100,000-plus Bryant-Denny, Auburn's Jordan-Hare seats 87,451 of some of the most loyal football fans you'll find anywhere.
Sure, it's easy to be a Crimson Tide fan in the state of Alabama, but how would you feel if your team had eight national titles but was still looked on as the ugly stepsister?
Perhaps that chip on the shoulder of Tigers fans adds a little edge to their rowdiness.
From “War Eagle” to “Zombie Nation,” there are few schools in the nation that can match the chanting power of Auburn fans.
While No. 15 is nothing to be ashamed of, a few more wins over Alabama, and Jordan-Hare will really start to climb the ranks of rowdy stadiums.
No. 14 Penn State
Penn State may not have been the most successful of the Big Ten's teams over the past decade, but the Nittany Lions fans certainly get high marks for dedication, creativity and rowdiness.
From Paternoville to white-out games to the incessant “Seven Nation Army” to throwing bottles of urine and whipping full beer cans at visiting fans as they walk by, Penn State fans are easily some of the more rowdy fans in the Big Ten.
It takes a special breed of people to throw urine. So why doesn't Penn State get a higher ranking, pee throwing and all? Because that's just gross, and we're not going to reward grossness.
No. 13 Ohio State
With the possible exception of Alabama, there's really no team in the nation that has as much of a cult-like following as Ohio State.
If you don't believe that, just drive through the state of Ohio for any distance with a sign that says “Ohio State sucks” on the back of your car.
You won't get very far. And if you dare stop, you'll find your tires slashed when you get back to your vehicle.
It's also pretty annoying that fans and alumni constantly refer to their school as “The Ohio State University.” Okay, we get that's the official name, but it's also The Pennsylvania State University and The University of Michigan and The University of Southern California. There's nothing special about Ohio State's name.
It's also a little curious that Ohio State tends to forget the “State” part of their name as often as the “The” is added. Ohio Stadium, Script Ohio, and O-H-I-O are just a few examples. Apparently Ohio State fans aren't aware of a program down in Athens, Ohio, named Ohio.
But if you think any of this matters to Ohio State fans, you're sadly mistaken. Not only are Buckeyes fans intensely loyal, they're also proud of their arrogance. Go figure. It's no small wonder the mascot is a giant walking nut.
No. 12 Texas A&M
If you make any list of rowdy fans, you absolutely have to include a group that shows up at midnight the night before a home came for “Yell Practice.”
Since the 1920s, Texas A&M fans have been called “The 12th Man,” and there's good reason for the moniker; Texas A&M fans stand and yell through the entire game at Kyle Field—which is probably why they practice.
The rowdy student body also has one of the more raunchy traditions, too. Every time the Aggies score, the students get a little sugar from their date.
What do they get if the Aggies win?
No. 11 Texas
People from the state of Texas treat their football like a religion.
The 100,119 fans that squeeze into DKR-Texas Memorial on Saturdays have the energy of a old camp revival, and all of the same dedication, too.
But instead of giving their souls to Jesus, these converts are giving their hearts and minds to all things Longhorns.
Despite having a band dressed in the world's worst cowboy Halloween costume imaginable, and stands that are placed a little too far back from the field, there's no doubt that the loyalty of Texas Longhorns fans is as great as any team anywhere.
You'd be surprised how loud 100,000 screaming Texans can be, even in a flat, wide stadium with one end open.
No. 10 Virginia Tech
There are few pregame traditions that can match “Enter Sandman.”
The Metallica hit is blasted through the stadium's speakers as the Hokies take the field, and Lane Stadium literally shakes with the excitement of the crowd.
Despite holding just over 66,000 fans, Lane is one of the most electrifying atmospheres in the nation, and Virginia Tech's recent string of success has only added to the rabid following the Hokies have developed.
No. 9 Alabama
On any given Saturday, one need look no further than Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, to find some of the most devoted fans in the nation.
With 101,821 Crimson Tide faithful cramming the stadium, Alabama has quickly become one of the top programs in college football after a decade or more of comparative irrelevance.
Alabama Crimson Tide football fans are the definition of pride and arrogance, claiming 14 national championship for their legendary football team (with at least four of those claims being dubious, at best).
The rabidness of Tide fans was even the subject of an EPSN commercial.
As the print tag line states at the end of the commercial, “It's not crazy. It's sports.”
I think the rest of the nation would admit, though, when it comes to Alabama fans, it's at least a little bit crazy, right?
No. 8 Michigan
It looks as if Michigan has emerged from the lean years, as the Wolverines finally made it back to the BCS last season.
New head coach Brady Hoke has restored some pride in the program, and the fans of the winningest program in history are back to their old ways, spurring their team on to victory in the nation's largest stadium each Saturday afternoon.
Part of Michigan's move up the rankings of rowdiest fans has to do with the simple fact that there are 109,901 of them (and usually a lot more, with the record set at 114,804) surrounding the field at Michigan Stadium.
In the past, Michigan Stadium has had a reputation of being a surprisingly quiet environment, as its flat, single bowl design didn't trap crowd noise very well. But with the addition of luxury boxes to either side of the field, the stadium now sounds as big as it looks.
With a long-awaited win over Ohio State in 2011 followed by a Sugar Bowl championship, you can bet Michigan fans will mount their high horse for the 2012 season. This time, the team may actually be able to back up the talk.
No. 7 Michigan State
For the first time since 1955 and 1956, Michigan State has put together two perfect seasons at home, back-to-back.
MSU is in the midst of a 14-game home winning streak that dates back to the start of the 2010 season. That's the longest home streak for Sparty since 1953, when MSU's 19-game home win streak was snapped by Purdue.
Spartan Stadium holds a measly 75,005 fans, but the proximity of those fans to the field makes for a unique atmosphere in the Big Ten.
The fans, almost on top of the field, hurl insults and foul language at the visiting bench, mere feet from the front row of seats. The MSU student section is relentless in its energy, and chants on a**hole can be heard whenever any fan dressed in a color other than green or white appears in the stadium.
Spartan Stadium has also been home to some incredible finishes these past two seasons. First, Michigan State called a gutsy fake field goal in overtime to top Notre Dame in 2010. Last season, a final-second Hail Mary barely crossed the goal line—a review that was almost too difficult to make as the rowdy crowd erupted, making the television cameras shake so severely as to make an appropriate review difficult.
Lucky for MSU, a replay from a steady camera with a decent angle was found, and the official announced the touchdown.
But again showing the rowdiness of the crowd, the referee didn't even finish his sentence before the partisan crowd drowned him out and stormed the field.
Spartan Stadium is also home to one of the greatest mascots in college football. Sparty, one of the first now ubiquitous foam-rubber mascots, is nationally recognized, thanks to ESPN commercials, was named “buffest mascot” by Muscle and Fitness magazine, and even appeared on a soda bottle label for Jones Soda in honor of Sparty's back-to-back “Mascot of the Year” awards in 2004 and 2005.
No. 6 Florida State
Doak Campbell Stadium is home to the Florida State Seminoles, as well as the loudest and rowdiest fan base in the ACC.
Every game at Doak begins with one of the coolest scenes in college sports, as Chief Osceola throws a flaming spear into the turf, whipping the crowd into a frenzy.
As the game progresses, the signature Tomahawk Chop and its accompanying chant from 82,300 Florida State fans is just one of those sights in college football that are hard to explain if you haven't seen it in person.
No. 5 Oklahoma
Since Bob Stoops came to Norman, Oklahoma has consistently been ranked among the nation's top teams.
There's no doubt that the home crowd at Gaylord Family Memorial Stadium has a little something to do with that success.
Generally regarded as one of the most difficult venues for a road team to steal a win, Memorial Stadium seats “just” 82,112 fans. Still, the stadium has an atmosphere second-to-none as the fans are almost on top of the field, and the indefatigable energy of the crowd is like a wall of sound.
About the only time we see visiting teams win in Norman is when Mother Nature helps in clearing out the stands during a weather delay.
No. 4 Florida
Ben Hill Griffin Stadium is affectionately known as “The Swamp” to Florida fans, and not so affectionately known as “The Swamp” to visitors.
When you get 88,000-plus fans all doing the Gator Chomp together, the atmosphere is just unbeatable.
Florida fans got much of their rowdy reputation from the Tim Tebow years, as the relentless hero-worship of Tebow annoyed pretty much the entire country. Of course, Tebow was actually a good player in college, leading the Gators to the 2008 BCS National Championship.
No. 3 Wisconsin
Wisconsin has now won at least a share of the previous two Big Ten championships, and the secret about Madison is out.
Camp Randall Stadium is home to the rowdiest, nastiest fan base in the Big Ten, and arguably one of the rowdiest in the entire nation.
The Badgers are aptly named, as anyone who has come across both the animal and fan variety knows.
As rowdy as these fans in Madison get (and, man, do they get rowdy), the Badger faithful are probably best known for their relentless heckling of the opposing team and their fans that dare make the journey to Camp Randall.
There's a lot of Wisconsin pride up in Madison, and maybe someday, the program might actually have a national championship the fans can brag about.
No. 2 LSU
There should be no argument that LSU fans belong among the top groups of college football fans in the entire country.
Although it should be noted that no other college was dumb enough to put a seismometer next to its football stadium, LSU is still and will forever be known as the place where the crowd in the football stadium actually registered as an earthquake.
From the amazingly misspelled (even in French) “Geaux Tigers” chant to ear-splitting noise at the famous night games in Baton Rouge, the reputation of LSU fans has almost eclipsed that of the football team itself.
If you've never been to Baton Rouge for an LSU night game, it's something you must add to your bucket list. Just prepare yourself before you go, and make sure you wear plenty of purple and gold.
No. 1 Oregon
If you've ever been to a game at Autzen, you've learned to bring one essential piece of equipment: ear plugs.
It boggles the mind how 54,000 football fans can create so much noise—more so than a group of fans twice its size.
The noise gets so loud that the university actually recorded and measured the sound generated. The noise has been reported to be in excess of 127 decibels, which—for the sake of comparison—exceeds the pain threshold of 125 dB and is four times louder than the average gas lawn mower.
It takes an incredibly rowdy fan base to generate that much noise when there's just 54,000 of them. Imagine how inhospitable Autzen would be if it held, say, 100,000 fans!
Oregon also ranked last in the conference in a 2009 Sports Illustrated poll of politeness among other Pac-10 (now Pac-12) fans, with only 2.6 percent of conference fans listing Oregon as the “most polite.”
Rudeness combined with unrelenting, physically painful crowd noise easily propels Oregon's Autzen Stadium to the top of our list of rowdiest college football stadiums.