Top 15 College Football Stadiums

Kristofer GreenSenior Writer IAugust 15, 2008

They may not be the biggest (although a few of them are). They may not be the hardest to play in (although more than a few of them are). But they are the best and most recognizable stadiums in college football.

The 15 best stadiums in college football are...

*UPDATE:  Due to reader comments I have adjusted the rankings of some of the stadiums on this list.  Because I haven't been to all the stadiums I was and still am willing to listen to suggestions of those fans that have. 

To view a list of Honorable Mentions click here.

15. Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, University of Southern California 

Capacity: 92,000; Surface: Grass; Opened: Oct. 6, 1923; Nickname: The Grand Old Lady

Site of the Olympic Games, the Super Bowl, and World Series, the Los Angeles Coliseum has hosted many great games during its existence.

And although many teams have played at the coliseum over the years, one has been constant, the University of Southern California Trojans.

Construction of a football stadium for the Los Angeles area began in the early 1920s. Completed in less than two years, the USC Trojans played the first game ever at the Coliseum on Oct. 6, 1923 against Pomona College. Nearly 76,000 bleacher seats circled the entire field.

By 1930, the City of Los Angeles was awarded the 1932 Olympics. Over $950,000 was spent to enlarge the stadium to seat nearly 101,000 fans for the Olympics. Although built primarily for football in April 1958, the Los Angeles Dodgers (MLB) moved to the coliseum while their baseball stadium was constructed.

In 1959, a football game between USC and Ohio State was played at the coliseum and an hour after its completion, the first World Series game in California was played. The Dodgers moved out of the coliseum after the 1961 season. After its addition in the 1930s, the Los Angeles Coliseum changed very little until the 1990s.

Beginning in February 1993, $15 million in renovations were completed to the coliseum. Actual seats were installed, replacing the bleachers, and 14 rows of seats were added, bringing the capacity to around 92,000, after the field was lowered 14 feet.

Although the stadium has a seating capacity of 92,000, the Trojans often cover some of the seats to give it a capacity of 68,000.

The Coliseum has been the home of many great sporting events from the 1932 and 1984 Olympics to World Series and Super Bowl games.


14. Camp Randall Stadium, The University of Wisconsin

Capacity: 80,321; Surface: Field Turf; Opened: Nov. 3, 1917; Nickname: The Camp

Located on the west side of the University of Wisconsin campus, Camp Randall Stadium is the oldest stadium in the Big-10 Conference.

Football at the university dates back to 1889 and at the site of Camp Randall Stadium since 1913, when the original wooden stadium was built. For two seasons, football was played at the wooden structure before it collapsed.

A newer, safer steel and concrete structure was needed and a new 10,000 seat stadium was built. The Badgers played their first game at the new stadium on Nov. 3, 1917 against Minnesota.

Unlike many stadiums in college football, Camp Randall Stadium was not named after the team or someone associated with the university. Camp Randall was an army base during the American Civil War and the Badgers stadium was built on its location.

Camp Randall Stadium has been expanded many times over the years. It could hold 51,000 fans by 1951, 77,745 by 1966, and currently holds 80,321.


13. Sanford Stadium, The University of Georgia

Capacity: 92,746; Surface: Grass; Opened: Oct. 29, 1929; Nickname: Between the Hedges

Football has been part of the University of Georgia since 1892, when the team played at Herty Field. In 1911, Georgia President Dr. Steadman V. Sanford moved the Bulldog games to a central location on campus that was named Sanford Field.

Georgia's rivalry with Georgia Tech in 1920s lead to a new stadium being constructed for the team, because all the games between the teams were played at Georgia Tech's Grant Field because Sanford Field was not large enough.

Sanford Stadium was built for a cost of $360,000 and opened on Oct. 29, 1929, with a game against Yale. There have been six major expansions in 1949, '64, '67, '81, '91, and 2003.

Sanford Stadium's famous hedges have encircled the field since the stadium's very first game against Yale in 1929. The idea to put hedges around the field came from the Business Manager of the University Athletic Department, Charlie Morton. Morton claimed to have received inspiration for the idea during a visit to the Rose Bowl, where he saw the hedge of roses in that stadium.

In 1996, Sanford Stadium played host to the Olympic Games for the medal rounds in men's and women's soccer. Because the required dimensions of a soccer field are larger than for an American football field, the hedges surrounding the field needed to be removed.

This proved to be a controversial measure, as it had not been general public knowledge that the hedges would have to be removed to accommodate the Olympic football competition. In order to preserve tradition, cuttings were taken from the original hedges and cultivated at a secret off-site location for three years prior to the Olympics. Once the Olympics were over, the newly-grown hedges were transplanted from their off-site location to the stadium.


12. Bobby Bowden Field at Doak Campbell Stadium, Florida State University

Capacity: 82,300; Surface: Grass; Opened: Oct. 7, 1950; Nickname: Doak

Prior to moving into Doak Campbell Stadium, the Florida State Seminoles played at Centennial Field. Florida State decided to build a new stadium for the football team by the late 1940s.

Named after former Florida State President Doak S. Campbell, the Seminoles played their first game at the stadium on Oct. 7, 1950, against Randolph Macon. Originally, the stadium had a seating capacity of 15,000, with seating on both sides of the gridiron.

With continual growing support over the past five decades, Doak Campbell Stadium has been expanded many times. The stadium was expanded in 1954, 1961, and 1970, bringing the capacity to 40,500.

Additional renovations occurred in 1982 and in the 1990s. Today, Doak Campbell Stadium has a capacity of 82,300. An enormous single-tier grandstand encloses the entire field.

The field at Doak Campbell Stadium was named after current coach Bobby Bowden on Nov. 20, 2004, and the facility is currently known as Bobby Bowden Field at Doak Campbell Stadium.


11. Bryant-Denny Stadium, The University of Alabama

Capacity: 92,138; Surface: Grass; Opened: Sept. 28, 1929

Former Alabama President George Hutchenson Denny was the original namesake for the Crimson Tide's football team.

Denny Stadium opened on Sept. 28, 1929 and was officially dedicated the following week at Homecoming ceremonies against the Ole Miss Rebels. Originally, the stadium had a capacity of 12, 000.

Stadium expansion projects took place in 1937, which raised the capacity to 18,000, in 1950 (25,000), in 1961 (43,000), in 1966 (60,000), in 1988 (70,123), in 1998 (83,818), and in 2006, which brought the stadium to it's current capacity.

In 1975, the Alabama State legislature voted to honor famed Alabama coach Paul "Bear" Bryant by renaming the stadium Bryant-Denny Stadium.


10. Tom Osborne Field at Memorial Stadium, University of Nebraska

Capacity: 81,067; Surface: Fieldturf; Opened: Oct. 20, 1923; Nickname: Sea of Red

In the early 1920s, support began to build a new stadium for the Nebraska football program, and the first game was played Oct. 20, 1923 against Kansas, in the new Memorial Stadium.

The stadium was named in honor of the citizens of Nebraska that fought the Civil War, Spanish-American War, and World Wars I & II.

The stadium holds the ongoing NCAA record of 288 consecutive sellouts. The streak began in 1962. When full, Memorial stadium holds more people than any city in Nebraska, other than Omaha or Lincoln.

Memorial Stadium has undergone several phases of expansion and renovation since its original construction. In its original configuration, the stadium was modeled after Ohio State University's Ohio Stadium and had a seating capacity of around 31,000.

A series of four additions between 1964 and 1972 enclosed the stadium by adding seats above the north and south end zones, more than doubling Memorial Stadium's seating capacity to nearly 74,000. A major renovation in 1999 added 42 luxury boxes above the west stands.

The stadium was rededicated and the playing surface was renamed after retiring coach Tom Osborne.

In 2004, construction began to renovate and expand the north end-zone stands. Memorial Stadium now features an additional 13 luxury boxes above the north stands, called the "Skyline Suites" and an additional 6,000 seats, increasing seating capacity to 81,067.

In 1987, Memorial Stadium hosted Farm Aid III.


9. Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium, University of Oklahoma

Capacity: 82,112; Surface: Grass; Opened: 1925

The first game played at the current stadium site was in 1923, with the Sooners prevailing over Washington University.

When 16,000 permanent seats were built on the west side of the site in 1925, the new stadium was named Oklahoma Memorial Stadium, in honor of university students and personnel that died during World War I.

The facility was constructed at an approximate cost of $293,000, and coach Bennie Owen himself helped raise the money. To honor Owen, the playing surface was named Owen Field during the 1920s.

Expansions to Memorial Stadium took place in 1949, when capacity was raised to 55,000, in 1967 (62,000), in 1970 (71,1870), and in 2004, the entire stadium was renovated and expanded to its current capacity.


8. Beaver Stadium, Pennsylvania State University 

Capacity: 107,282; Surface: Grass; Opened: Sept. 1, 1969; Nickname: Happy Valley

Beaver Stadium is the second largest stadium in college football after its latest renovation. Prior to playing at the current location, the original Beaver Stadium was located on the west side of campus and seated 30,000 fans.

Named for James Beaver, President of the Board of Trustees, the Nittany Lions played at the original Beaver Stadium from 1909 until 1959.

The university decided to disassemble the stadium and move it to its current location after the 1959 season. The team played its first game in the rebuilt stadium on Sept. 17, 1960 against Boston University. Beaver Stadium had a new capacity of 46,284 in a horseshoe configuration.

The first of many expansions to Beaver Stadium came in 1969, when the capacity was increased by 2,000. By 1978, the capacity was at 76,000. Two years later, the capacity was raised to 83,770 and lights were installed in 1984. An upper deck was added in 1991, increasing the capacity by 10,000.

Because of continued fan support PSU has continued to improve and expand Beaver Stadium. The latest renovations were completed before the start of the 2001 season, which brought the stadium to its current capacity.


7. Tiger Stadium, Louisiana State University

Capacity: 92, 400; Surface: Grass; Opened: Nov. 25, 1924; Nickname: Death Valley

Tiger Stadium was constructed in the early 1920s and opened on Nov. 25, 1924 when LSU battled Tulane. The original stadium seated 24,000 fans, with grandstands on both sides of the gridiron.

Six major expansions have been completed at the stadium over its eight decades of existence. Two additions were completed in the 1930s. The first in 1931, when the capacity increased by 10,000, and the second in 1936 when the north end-zone was enclosed, increasing the seating capacity to 46,000.

The south end-zone was enclosed in 1953 and the first of two upper decks was added in 1978, pushing the capacity to over 78,000. The 11,600-seat addition in 2000 allowed the Tigers to pack even more screaming fans into Tiger Stadium.

Throughout the 2005 season, the Tigers continued to expand Tiger Stadium with the west side expansion. This $60 million expansion added 3,255 club seats, a new press box and upper deck on the west side of the stadium.

Completed by the 2006 season, this expansion increased the seating capacity of Tiger Stadium to 92,400. This addition will allow LSU to continue to average over 90,000 fans per game, as has been the average for the past three consecutive years. As the sixth-largest stadium in the country, Tiger Stadium will continue to be one of the most exciting places to watch a game in the country.

In terms of general population, Tiger Stadium would be the sixth-largest city in Louisiana for the seven home games each year. Tiger Stadium is generally considered one of the loudest and most electrifying college football atmospheres in the country.

During the 2007 game against the University of Florida, CBS recorded 129.8 decibels at certain points during the game.


6. Michigan Stadium, University of Michigan

Capacity: 107,501; Surface: Fieldturf; Opened: Oct. 1, 1927; Nickname: The Big House

Prior to playing at Michigan Stadium, the Wolverines played at Ferry Field. The team had been playing there since 1906 and continually had to expand the stadium as interest in the team grew.

As attendance grew, a new stadium was needed to accommodate the fans.

Fielding Yost, coach of the football team, designed a new stadium, and the University of Michigan approved construction in April 1926. Built at a cost of $950,000, Michigan Stadium was modeled after the Yale Bowl and was built of steel and concrete. When completed, the stadium could seat nearly 72,000 fans. Yost designed the stadium so it could be expanded to seat up to 200,000 fans one day.

The Michigan Wolverines played their inaugural first game at Michigan Stadium on Oct. 1, 1927 against Ohio Wesleyan. The entire single-tier grandstand circled the playing field. The official capacity when Michigan Stadium when it opened was 84,401, an enormous number for this time. It was the largest stadium in the nation in 1927. However, as support for the team grew, so did the stadium.

By 1928, the capacity was increased to 85,753. In 1930, new electronic scoreboards were added at each end zone. Michigan Stadium was expanded yet again by the 1949 season, when the stadium was expanded to seat 97,239 fans. In 1956, a new press box was constructed that increased the seating capacity over 100,000 to 101,001.

For nearly 200 games, the Wolverines have attracted more than 100,000 fans and hosted 111,238 fans in a game against Michigan State on Nov. 20, 1999. In May 2006, the Michigan Board of Regents voted to construct new luxury boxes and renovate Michigan Stadium.

This $226 million renovation will be completed by the 2010 season and include 83 suites, 3,200 club seats and widen seats and aisles, increasing the seating capacity to 108,000 making it once again the largest stadium in the country.


5. Notre Dame Stadium, University of Notre Dame

Capacity: 80,795; Surface: Grass; Opened: Oct. 4, 1930; Nickname: The House that Rockne Built

Prior to the building of Notre Dame Stadium, Cartier Field, a 30,000-seat stadium, was home to the football team. Because of the team's continued success, games regularly sold out.

Led by the success of coach Knute Rockne, he decided that a new stadium needed to be built for the Fighting Irish. By the mid to late 1920s, plans were drawn up for a new stadium at Notre Dame.

Constructed at a cost of $750,000, construction began in late 1929. Patterned after Michigan Stadium, Notre Dame Stadium was completed by October 1930.

The Fighting Irish played their first game at Notre Dame Stadium on Oct. 4, 1930 against Southern Methodist University. The stadium originally had a capacity of 54,000, and throughout its more than seven decades of existence, Notre Dame Stadium has seen only one main addition. Prior to the 1997 season, the stadium was expanded to its current capacity of 80,795.

Notre Dame Stadium remains one of the most unique stadiums in college football, with its brick exterior and setting. Over the years, seven Heisman Trophy winners have played at Notre Dame Stadium, and the Fighting Irish have sold out every game since 1964. Touchdown Jesus, located on the Hesburgh Library, looms over the end zone of Notre Dame Stadium.


4. Ben Hill Griffin Stadium at Florida Field, University of Florida 

Capacity: 88,548; Surface: Grass; Opened: Oct. 27, 1930; Nickname: The Swamp

Football at the University of Florida began in 1906, led by coach James Forsythe. Towards the end of the 1920s, the University of Florida decided to build a new stadium for its football team.

On Apr. 16, 1930 construction on the stadium began and was completed by Oct. 27, 1930, when the Gators played their first game.

Originally known as Florida Field, the stadium had a capacity of 21,769. The original section of seating now encompasses the lower half of the current stadium. By 1950, the first of many additions to the stadium was in the works and by the start of the 1950 season 10,000 bleachers were built on the west side. The Gators also hosted the first night game at Florida Field on Sept. 23, 1950.

15 years later, an additional 10,000 seats were added to the east side and bleachers were constructed on the south end-zone, bringing the capacity to 62,800. In 1991, Florida Field was named after Ben Hill Griffin, a donor to the University of Florida. The stadium was renamed Ben Hill Griffin Stadium at Florida Field.

Once again in 1991, construction was completed on the north end-zone, bringing the capacity to 83,000. The most recent addition to Ben Hill Griffin Stadium came in 2001, when $50 million was spent expanding the press box, installing chair back seats on the club level, and building new luxury suites.

Ben Hill Griffin Stadium is now the largest stadium in the state of Florida, with a capacity of just over 88,548.


3. Shields-Watkins Field at Neyland Stadium, University of Tennessee

Capacity: 102,037; Surface: Grass; Opened: Sept. 21, 1921

In 1919, W.S. Shields, a University of Tennessee trustee and President of the local bank, provided the money for a new stadium for the football program.

Completed in 1921, the stadium was originally known as Shields-Watkins Field, after Shields and his wife, Alice Watkins.

The Volunteers played their inaugural game at the stadium on Sept. 24, 1921 against Emory and Henry. A far cry from what the stadium can hold today, originally the stadium had a single tier grandstand located on the west side of the field that could seat 3,200 fans.

The first of 16 expansions of the stadium began in 1926, when a grandstand that could seat 3,600 was constructed. That same year, famous Volunteers head coach Robert R. Neyland began his tenure as head of the football program. The stadium was renamed Shields-Watkins Field at Neyland Stadium in 1962.

The stadium has, at different points in its history, reflected two different stadium design traditions in American college football seating, that of the horseshoe-style stadium in its earlier years and the bowl-style stadium since the closing of the lower bowl in the 1980s.

Because of tight seating conditions, the nickname "One-Cheek Stadium" is often used by visitors.


2. The Rose Bowl, University of California at Los Angeles

Capacity: 91, 136; Surface: Grass; Opened: Oct. 8, 1922

By the late 1800s, the City of Pasadena had began searching for land to build a stadium. In 1897, a parcel of land was bought and two decades later, the Tournament of Roses Association decided it was time to build a stadium.

Before the construction of the Rose Bowl, the annual Rose Bowl game was played at Tournament Park, where temporary stands were constructed each year for the game. Construction on the stadium began in the early 1920s and was complete in 1922.

The first of several expansions to the Rose Bowl was in 1929 when the stadium was enclosed on the south end increasing the capacity to 76,000. Three years later, the capacity increased again to 86,000 and to just over 100,000 in 1949.

In 1982, the UCLA Bruins made their debut at the Rose Bowl, moving from the Los Angeles Coliseum. Since then, it has remained the Bruins' home and the site of many events.

In the past decade, the Rose Bowl has seen several improvements, including new lights, a new three-story press box, a video/scoreboard, and in 1998, individual chairs replaced the bleachers between the end zones.

With its recent renovations, the Rose Bowl has a capacity of 91,136. The main one-tier grandstand encloses the entire playing field.

In addition to hosting numerous college football games over the years, the Rose Bowl has been home of the Super Bowl and the World Cup. Of course, it is most famous for hosting the Rose Bowl each year on New Years Day.


1. Ohio Stadium, The Ohio State University 

Capacity: 102, 329; Surface: Fieldturf; Opened: Oct. 7, 1922; Nickname: The Horseshoe 

As early as 1913, there was discussion of a new stadium for the Ohio State football team. The team had been playing at Ohio Field and a new stadium was needed because of the growing support for the Buckeyes.

The school wanted to build a large enough stadium to accommodate fans that were interested in the sport. However, there was disagreement on where to build the stadium and how to raise money for its construction.

Ohio State commissioned Howard D. Smith to design the new stadium. By 1918, he designed a double-decked horseshoe stadium. After funds were raised to build the new stadium, construction began in August 1921. Built of steel and concrete, the stadium was constructed at a cost of $1.3 million.

The Buckeyes played their first game at Ohio Stadium on Oct. 7, 1922 against Ohio Wesleyan. When it opened in 1922, Ohio Stadium had a seating capacity of 66,210 in a double-decked horseshoe configuration. The Buckeyes have been very successful over the years, leading to renovations and expansions to Ohio Stadium.

The latest renovations and expansions came between 1998 and 2001. This expansion included the removal of the Jesse Owens Track and lowering the field by 14 feet. Lowering of the field allowed for additional rows of seating to be added. Furthermore, a 40-foot tall shell was added on the east and west sides of the stadium to allow the rim to be raised and to add 17 rows of seats.

Today, Ohio Stadium is one of the best stadiums in the nation, and the Buckeyes have led the nation in attendance 20 times throughout the years.


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