Ode to Wally Wade Stadium

Mike KlineAnalyst IJuly 31, 2009

DURHAM, NC - NOVEMBER 29:  The mascot of the Duke Blue Devils throws his pitchfork into the endzone during the game against the North Carolina Tar Heels at Wallace Wade Stadium on November 29, 2008 in Durham, North Carolina. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Of all the grand palaces and arenas in college football, Wallace Wade Stadium may be the one that warms my heart the most.

No, this is not a joke. I am writing a tribute to Duke University's Wallace Wade Stadium here.

For too long has Wally Wade, as it is known by those who love and jest at the old horseshoe, been known for what it doesn't have—namely fans.

Wade Stadium, named after former Duke coach Wallace Wade, once had a rich tradition in college football; granted it was long before my time and unfortunately before many others' too.

Yet, Wallace Wade once held a special place in the college football ranks. Duke football, after all, once was a power.

Again, I'm not joking.

They had unbeaten regular seasons and regular bowl appearances. They truly were a power.

During that time, another big event took place at the Duke stadium. Thanks in large part to the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, Wallace Wade became the only stadium to host a Rose Bowl outside of Pasadena.

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The golden era of Duke Football has all but been forgotten now, yet Wade still holds a special place for me; it is where I learned to love college football.

Since birth, I have always been a pro football fan. In fact, one of my first Christmas presents was a pair of Washington Redskin pajamas. College football was never a blip on my radar as a very young child

I remember the Christmas when I asked for the old-school football uniforms with the plastic helmet and shoulder pads that prominently featured the warning this is not intended for contact sports.

Naturally, I asked for a Washington Redskins uniform featuring the No. 7 worn by Joe Theismann. My twin brother and I both wanted one.

He got his; I instead got a South Carolina Gamecocks one. I was crushed. My mom had underestimated my awareness and figured I wouldn't notice the difference.

I had no idea what a Gamecock was and I didn't care, all I knew was I wasn't wearing a Joey T. jersey. The excuse I got was that they had run out of the Redskins uniforms.

Why my brother got it and I didn't is still a heated discussion every December, but that is a different story altogether.

My older brother started at Duke University in the fall of 1986 and that is when I began to become more aware of college football. When I cared enough to begin noticing, Duke wasn't bad.

Steve Spurrier was the coach and Duke was regularly winning games, at least more so than in recent history. 

It was exciting for me as a little kid of no more than steven or eight walking into a stadium bigger than any I'd ever seen, eating a hotdog and drinking a cold Coke, and watching the game.

I remember my chest thumping with the band's drums and the smell of the popcorn and the energy of the crowd.

When you are young, you don't care so much that the bathrooms and concession stands are old and you certainly aren't capable of comparing stadiums.

For me, Wade was where it was at.

When I did venture to another stadium, it was UNC's Kenan Stadium. At the time, I knew enough about the rivalry to know I hated it. I witnessed Duke's 42-0 drubbing under Spurrier and never thought twice about comparing which stadium was better.

All I knew was I liked Duke, which meant I liked Wade better.

Those days are now long gone and while Duke is working its way back to respectability under new coach David Cutcliff, they still have a long way to go.

As for Wallace Wade, the stadium is going to be getting a face lift. New bathrooms and concessions, new practice fields, and visitor's locker rooms are being installed to help Duke keep some kind of pace with the other coliseums of college football.

But despite the new additions and changes, Wade, like Cameron Indoor Stadium, provides nostalgia for the simpler times when college football wasn't all about money and the BCS, but about pride for you school and passion for your team.

It may take a few more wins and a lot more effort these days, but Wallace Wade will be waiting to welcome back the fans who have long sense abandoned the old horseshoe for greener pastures.

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