Autzen Stadium, home of the Oregon Ducks, is ikely the most under-appreciated college football venue in the country.
With just over 41,000 fans and a single-level bowl (kind of a "mini-me" to the old Sombrero in Tampa), it was easily the loudest stadium I’ve visited; with a list that includes monolith’s like LSU’s Tiger Stadium, Georgia’s Sanford Stadium, Tennessee’s Neyland Stadium, and Texas A&M’s Kyle Field.
As a southern boy with loyalties to Big 12 and SEC teams, it’s difficult to admit.
The first time I remember recognizing the Ducks is when Rich Brooks took his team to the Rose Bowl with Danny O'Neil at quarterback.
When Brooks left for the NFL, Mike Bellotti took the torch and carried the Ducks to even greater heights on the national scene becoming a fixture in the top 25, are typically good enough for a Holiday Bowl appearance, and will occasionally go toe-to-toe with the USC Trojans.
I visited Autzen Stadium prior to its most recent expansion in 2002. I was at the 1999 Arizona State game and was taken back with Oregon’s facilities, thanks in large part to Nike’s Phil Knight—a huge Oregon supporter. Eugene is a great college town, surrounded by the Cascade Mountains and great fall weather.
Some other suggestions to those seeking a great college football experience:
Husky Stadium—University of Washington—Seattle, WA
A great setting on Lake Washington, with Mt. Rainier looming in the background. Wait until the team gets a little better!
Notre Dame Stadium—University of Notre Dame—South Bend, IN
Whether you’re an Irish fan or not, the tradition of Knute Rockne, Touchdown Jesus, and The Four Horsemen is something to behold. Stop in and check out the College Football Hall of Fame.
Tiger Stadium—LSU—Baton Rouge, LA
If you plan to go, make it a night game with the best tailgating and food you’ll find anywhere. Night games are easily the best, once everyone has had all day to "ripen."
Kyle Field—Texas A&M—College Station, TX
Don’t miss Midnight Yell practice the night before the game, where 25-35,000 students and fans show up to "practice" choreographed yells in anticipation of the next day’s game. You may not even want to miss the Aggie Band—a military band usually 350 strong.
Sanford Stadium—UGA—Athens, GA
A beautiful campus, great tailgating, and passionate fans. Every college football fan should go to a contest "between the hedges."
On my short list of places I need to visit: the Coliseum at USC, UCLA’s Rose Bowl, Bama’s Bryant-Denny Stadium, Michigan’s Big House, Wisconsin’s Camp Randall Stadium, Penn State’s Happy Valley, Ohio State’s Horseshoe, the Swamp at Florida, Auburn’s Jordan-Hare, and Ole Miss.
Got some other suggestions? Who’s ready for some college football road trips?