I’ve long heard stories of folks traveling the country visiting Major League Baseball’s stadiums. As I walked to another new football stadium, I realized I’ve had a similar journey as a student and young alumni of Clemson University. As of this writing, I’ve attended 88 Clemson football games, most in Death Valley, but many in stadiums across the country. By my count I’ve visited 21 college football stadiums across the country.
As a way to track where I’ve visited, share my thoughts on them, and elicit stories from others (e.g., I just heard today that Texas Tech fans once punched a State Senator unprovoked for wearing Texas A&M gear!), I’ve created this blog post. Browse below, but also share your stories in the comments below or via social media with @Ryan_Kantor.
Clemson (Clemson Memorial Stadium, “Death Valley”): Death Valley will always represent what college football is meant to be. At the heart of campus, the band plays as they enter the stadium. Orange clad fans work their way into the stadium rain or shine. The noise level has broken records, but – for notable opponents – is most impressive because it is a consistent roar supporting the Tigers rather and the occasional reaction to a big play.
Duke (Wallace Wade Stadium): I’ve been to Wallace Wade on two occasions, however these were prior to the renovations that removed the outdoor track. It felt a bit dinky with the surrounding track, but my understanding is that it’s much more impressive now. One poignant memory was a current student asking me for directions to the football stadium since they were so estranged from the sport.
Florida State (Doak Campbell Stadium): With the possible exception of Amon G. Carter Stadium in Fort Worth, the exterior of Doak Campbell is the best I’ve seen. Beautiful brickwork, statues, and fountains make it hard to beat. Conversely, the interior is a bland bowl with no deck and no distinguishing features. In my sole trip there, a one tailgater cursed at me for no apparent reason. Another littered nearby, and the band which had given me a free snow cone pre-game, turned around and taunted the Clemson section with yet another cadence of the War Chant.
Georgia Tech (Bobby Dodd Stadium): While it may not hold true for games against Duke, Pittsburgh, or Virginia, it does get loud for Clemson at GT games. Fans certainly aren’t consistently yelling, but they “get up” for key plays. The views of downtown from inside the stadium are picturesque. The concourses are old and dumpy though and from outside the stadium, the scene is bleak. You can only see the upper deck while standings outside the stadium (it’s cut so deeply into the ground), making it look tiny, old, and sub-par.
Louisville (Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium): One of the best fan bases I’ve had the pleasure of interacting with. It may be my favorite road game trip ever, I drove up to Nashville, stayed with a friend at Vanderbilt, then drove up Thursday morning for Clemson’s first win in PJ Cardinal Stadium. We visited downtown Louisville where fans were welcoming and proud of their town. In the stadium, fans were loud, but equally welcoming. The venue itself was solid, nothing special, but tailgating at Churchill Downs was a great experience.
NC State (Carter-Finley Stadium): While not nearly as big as some other stadiums, Carter-Finley certainly gets packed and rowdy. When considering the capacity-to-student population ratio it’s not that impressive, but nevertheless it’s a tough place to play. The stadium is also quite clean and nice. The tailgating scene was pretty well done, but fans were shockingly rude, making a point to quit tailgating to chide any passerby in orange.
Virginia (Scott Stadium): This was one of my favorite stadiums. I visited just once more than five years ago, but still remember a relatively tame ground in a beautiful venue.
Wake Forest (BB&T Stadium): The smokey tobacco town has a much upgraded ACC football facility just off campus near one of the RJ Reynolds facilities that helped move Wake Forest University from Wake Forest, NC to Winston-Salem all those years ago. The new press box is quite nice and the exterior is well done, but the stature of the venue and the vibe from the crowd honestly is not on par with conference foes.
Maryland (Byrd Stadium): I attended the final ACC bout between Clemson and Maryland up in college park. It was a great road trip that centered on visiting Washington D.C., but the time in College Park was nothing special. The stadium looked poorly kept, the atmosphere was average, and the inflatable turtle near the endzone looked like it belonged at a tailgate.
Auburn (Jordan-Hare Stadium): Probably the most impressive road venue I’ve ever visited. Their Tiger Walk was incredibly long and packed. It felt like 80,000 fans were in line to watch their team walk off the bus. The sight lines in the stadium were somewhat obstructed from the bottom corners of the upper deck, but the atmosphere was incredible. I was there when they beat Clemson in overtime during their 2010 National Championship season. The memory from that day that stuck with me happened while we were exploring campus. I was walking with a college buddy across the campus when, out of nowhere, a plump, 10-year-old, girl decked out in Auburn gear leaped in front of my buddy, pointed in his face, and screamed “WAR DAMN EAGLE” and then ran away. We were left speechless.
Georgia (Sanford Stadium): I attended graduate school at UGA, and genuinely wanted to care about UGA football, but I never felt like there was an equivalent to the “Clemson Family” that I was a part of. It always felt more like a fashion show for the sorority girls and a drinking contest for the guys. The tailgate scene is too spread out to walk from tailgate to tailgate. Objectively, it is a beautiful venue. The hedges are beautifully done and poorly copied by UNC. The crowd is huge and loud at times. It’s certainly one of the best venues I’ve attended.
South Carolina (Williams-Brice Stadium): The atmosphere is actually quite good, but the lack of tradition and campus appeal is glaring. Walking across urban decay over railroad tracks into a stadium with large ramps in the corners is not my idea of a great road trip. I’ll never forget a grown man jumping in front of me and screaming cock-a-doodle-doo as I exited the venue in my last trip.
Vanderbilt (Vanderbilt Stadium): Very quiet and boring with a noticeably awful music selection. I always wondered why Vandy struggled to build long-term success, but after attending a game there, I understand it. It has nothing on Wake Forest.
Florida (Ben Hill Griffin Stadium)*
Georgia State (Georgia Dome)*
Miami (Sun Life Stadium)*
North Carolina (Kenan Memorial Stadium)*
Southern Methodist (Gerald J. Ford Stadium)*
Tennessee (Neyland Stadium)*
Texas Christian (Amon G. Carter Stadium)*
Utah (Rice-Eccles Stadium)*
Western Kentucky (L.T. Smith Stadium)*
* Did not attend for a home game for the university
Please share your stories in the comments below or via social media with @Ryan_Kantor.