Autzen Stadium: Is It Deserving of the Hype?
After reading through what seems like dozens of perspectives—on this site alone—that deal with toughest places to play in college football, Oregon's Autzen Stadium is a consistent top-five pick.
As a student at the University of Oregon, I do admit to being biased toward our home field's disruptive prowess, but I also feel that it is slightly overrated in some aspects.
Here are the pros and cons of the Autzen Zoo.
Pros: It's Loud, Really Loud
As heard in the video, Autzen can get those decibels bumping.
The fans are rabid—it's near-impossible to get tickets for games—and the student section is a place that has claimed many a larynx.
From experience, I can say that it is nearly impossible to hear a person standing next to you speak when this crowd is getting rowdy. Now, imagine you are an opposing player trying to hear the quarterback's audible—if you've played the NCAA Football video game, and witnessed the shaky routes or missed reads, you've got an idea of what I'm talking about.
You're having a hard time getting nachos from your buddy, he is trying to make a play for his team. You're not going to get those nachos, and he is not going to hear that audible.
It only takes one misstep to change a game, and if the crowd can give the home team the advantage of not allowing opposing teams clearly-heard audibles, the chances for mistakes increases exponentially.
Chaos through noise. Tried-and-true method of success.
Cons: Small Size in Comparison to Other Top Stadiums
That's a picture of Tiger Stadium, which houses the LSU football team.
It holds over 90,000 people. It's noise level might match that of a U2 concert.
What is truly incredible, however, is that this is not even at the upper end of attendance levels country-wide (Michigan and Ohio State have stadiums which seat more than 100,000)—yet it still is one-third times bigger than Autzen.
As shown earlier, Autzen can go toe-to-toe noise-wise with any stadium around the nation, but it just does not have that "wow" factor of giant stadiums like this and those of Michigan and Texas.
I am a firm believer that noise always trumps sheer size, but if Tiger Stadium and Autzen Stadium were both empty, this would be far more intimidating.
Teams like LSU have a silent intimidation tool that kicks in before any of their fans even get to their seats. Playing in front of upwards of 90,000 fans simply sounds more difficult than playing in front of 60,000.
Pros: Autzen Can Get Really Quiet at the Right Time
It is hard to get 60,000 people to be quiet, but as heard at the beginning of this video, Autzen has the ability to make something like that quite easy.
Fans can be seen telling other fans to be quiet whenever Oregon is on offense, allowing Chip Kelly and Darron Thomas to communicate seamlessly through their complex board messages.
This plays right into the strength of the Blur offense since play calls can be made so easily. This means even more points, tired legs on the opposing defense and a huge home-field advantage.
Autzen definitely is a winner when it comes to crowd volume control.
Cons: Autzen Can Get Really Quiet at the Wrong Time
My first experience at Autzen Stadium was the game against Stanford last year. As most people remember, Stanford jumped out to an early lead, before kowtowing in the second half to an Oregon onslaught.
The Ducks would go on to come back and win quite handily, but not without some drama.
During those tense moments when it looked like a first loss of the season might be in the cards, the crowd seemed to lose its edge. It wasn't that the place was silent; it just seemed like that renowned intensity wasn't there.
Once Oregon started their comeback, however, the crowd got its mojo back.
This, obviously, is not a good trait to have in a stadium or fanbase. It seemed like the players were lifting up the fans more than the fans were lifting up the players. This seems like a home field disadvantage, as the players should not have to worry about the support of their fans, during what was the biggest conference game of the year.
Even if the Ducks are getting pounded, there should still be support, not a palpable sense of nervousness.
I am not saying that this problem is found only at Autzen, but I do think that at Autzen this problem could and should be fixed. It was not too long ago that Oregon Ducks football was not a powerhouse in the NCAA or even the Pac-12, so I think that Ducks fans need to realize this and be thankful that we do now have a legitimate shot at winning every game we play in.
Just because the "unbeatable" team is getting beaten does not mean that they no longer deserve the fans' full support. Rather, that's when they need support the most.
Pros: Ducks Fans Call It How They See It
The referee clearly missed this call, and the Oregon fans let him know about it—for four straight plays.
Having fans boo you for a bad call for one play is part of the job for a referee, hearing ringing boos extended that long has got to be a new experience. It's hard not to let that enter into the psyche, and perhaps the ref thinks about that reaction before a big call.
That kind of stuff sticks with you whether you admit it or not. Having doubt in the referee's mind is a huge advantage to have over an opponent. He will have a harder time with marginal calls and might even feel like he "owes" one to the Ducks.
Pros: Bonus Video!
This video comes from the same Stanford game mentioned earlier. Only now the fans are into it, and they aren't happy.
Stanford "allegedly" fakes an injury (decide for yourself) in order to slow down the up-tempo offense of Oregon, which allows defenses little time to regroup between plays.
The crowd lays into Stanford the second the player hits the deck and their quick analysis of what actually happened is validated almost instantly, as the "injured" Stanford player, who was miraculously cured after one play out—like some soccer star—jogs back onto the field.
"Fake" injuries met by resounding BOOS are now as commonplace as touchdowns in Autzen, thanks to Chip Kelly's offense.
Cons: Autzen Does Not Travel Well
In this photo: Lee Corso and all of the Oregon fans at the BCS National Championship game.
Although the caption above is slightly exaggerated, I emphasize the word slightly.
I was fortunate enough to actually be one of those Oregon fans in attendance, and I can honestly say that it felt like it was an Auburn home game.
Oregon fans were essentially muted throughout the majority of the biggest game of the season. That's unacceptable.
This might not have anything to do with Autzen directly, but does reflect upon the people who call themselves fans. Oregon fans need to step up and go to the bowl games. I will be realistic in saying that it is an expensive endeavor, but I will also say that it is something that you can not put a price on. When is the next time Oregon will play for the National Championship? I would love to be sure that it would be this season, but nobody can actually predict it. It is potentially a once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing.
Auburn fans managed to make their way to the game in droves, and an easy excuse would be to say that "they just love football more than us."
If that is the case, then what is Autzen doing near the top of all of these lists? If the stadium and the people that line the seats want to do their nouveau-power football team justice, then they'll give it that singular magic inherent in the biggest cauldrons of college football—making them the places teams hate seeing they've got to visit when they glance at their preseason schedule.
Pac-12 games are not the big problem, it is the bowl games. National exposure helps the program, and if potential recruits see huge numbers of fans on television, it can do nothing but help the future of the team. That mentality—that Oregon has a superb fanbase—needs to be the case outside of Eugene as well.
So Is Autzen Deserving of Its High Ranking?
I would have to answer this question with a yes.
Although Oregon fans do not always travel well and can sometimes be quieted down by adversity, results do not lie. Since 2000 the Ducks are 57-13 at home. That averages out to just over one loss per year in Autzen over more than a decade.
If that is not proof enough that Autzen is deserving of a spot high up on the list of great stadiums, then I challenge you to come out and witness a game in person.
I bet you will find that the proof is, indeed, in the pudding. Even if it's a pudding that changes colors as often as U of O uniform schemes during the course of a season.