There are thousands of venues to watch college sports across the United States. From the small D-III baseball diamonds to the fabled lights of Bryant-Denny Stadium, there is a wide range of stadiums, fields, and domes where college sports can be viewed live. It is impossible for any one individual to go to every single athletic field in every college.
It is also extremely tough to narrow down the list to fifteen places that you absolutely must go to watch a game. But I took a stab at it, and here's what I came up with.
In no particular order, these are fifteen college sports venues to visit before you die.
What makes it great: The Big House, as it is known, as perhaps the most fitting nickname in college sports. Boy, is this place big. In its first Michigan Wolverines home football game after its latest renovation, 113,090 fans packed into the stadium for the most highly-attended football game in history. It is not the loudest or the prettiest stadium out there, but the sheer volume of people it can hold is incredible. The third largest stadium in the world, Michigan Stadium almost matches the population of its home city, Ann Arbor, on gamedays.
What makes it great: Allen Fieldhouse is steeped in tradition. The court is named James Naismith Court after basketball's founding father and the patriarch of Kansas basketball. Since its opening, the resident Jayhawks are 666-107, an incredible mark for a storied basketball program. The Phog, as it is known, is often the site of big-time Big 12 games, and is by itself enough of a reason to make the trek out to Lawrence.
What makes it great: Aside from being one of the loudest college football venues in the entire country, the Swamp, as it is commonly known, has a defining feature that few places have--an environmental advantage. The field is actually below ground, helping to trap the heat and turn the field into an effective sauna. Temperatures on the field can regularly exceed 100 degrees. The experience of SEC football with a raucous fan base in the Florida heat has no parallel.
What makes it great: This is the Cathedral of College Basketball. The Palestra is to college basketball what Wrigley Field is to baseball and what Lambeau Field is to football. Named for a Greek enclosure adjacent to a gymnasium, the Palestra has hosted more men's college basketball games than any other arena in the country. It is the home of Big Five basketball, the incredibly fierce rivalry between the five Philadelphia basketball schools. This is a landmark unlike any other in college sports.
What makes it great: While the Army's football program has not been nearly as good as it used to be, Michie Stadium still stands along the banks of the Hudson River, proud as ever. Named for the man who brought football to West Point, Michie Stadium has played host to three national champion teams. It has served as a launching pad for the likes of Doc Blanchard, Vince Lombardi, and Bill Parcells. And what is more patriotic than watching a great American sport at the Army academy?
What makes it great: Named for perhaps the greatest coach in college basketball history, Rupp Arena is the largest arena in the country built for basketball. Three of Kentucky's seven national titles have called this venue home, and it has played host to some of the greatest basketball players in history. The Wildcat faithful regularly pack the house, with attendance figures often going over 24,000. This is one of the most storied and intimidating arenas in all of basketball, and a must-visit for any serious basketball fan.
What makes it great: There is no atmosphere in all of college football that can compare with Saturday night football in Death Valley. The rabid fan base of the LSU Tigers jam-packs its stadium for every home game to create an incredibly loud and hostile environment for whichever foe happens to be in town. It is not the prettiest of stadiums, but sit inside and you will realize why they call it Death Valley.
What makes it great: "Through these gates walk the greatest fans in college hockey" is the quote from legendary hockey coach John Mariucci that is inscribed under the gate in his namesake arena. The home of the Minnesota Golden Gophers hockey team, Mariucci Arena is the premier place to watch college hockey. The rivalries are intense, the atmosphere is electric, and as seriously as these people take hockey, the arena is very fitting. Mariucci has seen the Golden Gophers win two national titles since its construction, and many more are sure to come to this pristine hockey venue.
What makes it great: From the air, there is no more distinctive stadium in college football than Ohio Stadium. Known as the Horseshoe, the home of the Buckeyes is a sea of scarlet and gray, a classic Big Ten (or twelve?) venue that is as storied and admired as the team that calls it home. Right off of Woody Hayes Drive, you can see the "I" in Ohio dotted and see one of college football's premier programs play in one of the nation's premier venues.
What makes it great: The Rose Bowl may be home to the UCLA football team, and World Cup and Olympic events, but it is undeniably recognized for its namesake event, the Rose Bowl Game. Memories upon memories have been made here, from Shelton Diggs' game-winning two point conversion in 1975 to Vince Young's epic scramble in 2006. The home of "The Grandaddy of Them All", the Rose Bowl is the Mecca of college football.
What makes it great: The sheer volume of basketball deities who have played in this arena is enough reason to make it a must-visit for the college sports fan. Pauley was constructed in the midst of an era of dominance by UCLA basketball. Coach John Wooden, having just won two national titles in a row, got an arena suitable for his team. Since that time, the Pavilion has seen legends upon legends, from Abdul-Jabar to Walton, grace its hardwood court.
What makes it great: A recent renovation expanded this storied football stadium's capacity to over 100,000, making for an incredible western Alabama atmosphere. Bryant-Denny is a legendary place, home to the Alabama Crimson Tide, who has won eleven national championships in their time at this stadium. In Alabama, football is life, and no place epitomizes this lifestyle better than Tuscaloosa's treasure, Bryant-Denny Stadium.
What makes it great: Home to the Big Ten's most storied basketball program, Assembly Hall at the University of Indiana has seen college basketball's last undefeated team and countless years of incredible basketball. The Hall has also hosted several NCAA tournaments and a 1972 ABA game. The Hoosiers have won three national titles here, but they'll have to win another soon if it is to be at Assembly Hall--plans are already in the works to demolish it and build a new arena.
What makes it great: The lore behind this stadium is enough to make it a big draw. It is the setting of the movie Rudy, the home of one of the most legendary college football programs, and has one of the coolest backdrops, Touchdown Jesus. Painted on the adjacent library, Touchdown Jesus looks over the players with his arms raised as if signaling a touchdown. Again, this is not a particularly huge or well-constructed stadium, and isn't one of the louder stadiums in football, but it is truly legendary. Especially if you have seen Rudy, this stadium is well worth a visit.
What makes it great: There is no atmosphere in sports quite like being inside Cameron Indoor for a Duke basketball game. Between the legendary student section, the Cameron Crazies, the proximity of the crowd to the court, or the sheer history of the place, there is never a dull moment inside this stadium. It plays home to the Duke Blue Devils, one of basketball's most accomplished programs, and despite its relatively small size, packs quite a punch for opposing players.