Depending on where you live in the country, your view of college football’s prominence may be drastically different from sports fans in another region. For example, if you live in Alabama you’re likely to be a much bigger fan of college sports than someone living in New York. We’re going to give you the Top 10 largest college football stadiums by capacity in NCAA D1 sports today, which should help illustrate its national significance. Before taking a look at the current Top 10, we thought you might be interested in the capacity of other famous stadiums for comparison’s sake.
The largest stadium used by an NFL team – excluding the Los Angeles Rams, who moved into the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum (home of the USC Trojans) in 2016 – is MetLife Stadium, shared by the New York Jets and New York Giants with a capacity of 82,500 (metlifestadium.com). Camp Nou, the largest club soccer stadium in the world and home of FC Barcelona, has a capacity of 99,354 (fcbarcelona.com). The following Top 10 stadiums are all currently in the Top 15 largest sports stadiums in the world; the top eight on this list make up eight of the top nine sports stadiums in the world. Without further adieu, here are the current Top 10 largest college football stadiums by capacity in NCAA D1 sports:
#10: Sanford Stadium – Athens, Georgia (92,746)
Home of the Georgia Bulldogs, Sanford Stadium was originally opened in October 1929. Named after Dr. Steadman Vincent Sanford, a pioneer of UGA athletics, this stadium has been renovated 10 times since 1929 to accommodate for growing interest in Georgia’s football program. In the early 1900s, Sanford became President of Georgia University and subsequently became highly involved in the early years of their football program. College football was gaining significant popularity in Georgia and the Bulldogs games against in-state rivals Georgia Tech would attract crowds too large to accommodate in Georgia’s existing football venue (named “Herty Field” at the time). This forced Georgia to travel to Georgia Tech’s Grant Field in Atlanta every year for the game. In what became known as the “final straw”, in 1927 Georgia traveled to Georgia Tech for the Rose Bowl. Georgia was a heavy favorite heading into the game, but they lost 12-0 to Georgia Tech in very muddy conditions. It’s been widely reported that even after some rainfall, Georgia Tech intentionally watered down the field even further to slow down the smaller but quicker Bulldogs (Bob Epling, Gridiron Now). After this loss, Sanford vowed to build a stadium larger than Georgia Tech’s and play games in Athens in rotating years. He had no problem raising the funds and just two years later, in Sanford Stadium’s inaugural season, the Bulldogs beat Georgia Tech 12-6 in Athens in their final game of the season.
Originally opening in 1923, the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum is currently the home stadium of the USC Trojans. While this coliseum has been used by various teams for different sporting events throughout the years, in January 2018 USC began a project to renovate this facility. The $270 million project, solely funded by USC, will be the first major upgrade to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in twenty years (Joey Kaufman, OCR). The project includes replacing every seat in the stadium, adding luxury boxes and club suites, but it will also decrease the stadium’s capacity from the current 93,607 to 77,500. On January 29th, 2018 United Airlines became the first naming rights partner, therefore this stadium will be renamed the United Airlines Memorial Coliseum beginning in August 2019. Unlike most stadiums, the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum has seen multiple previous renovations that upgraded the facilities while diminishing stadium capacity. This stadium’s record attendance of 104,953 came in 1947, a USC home game against Notre Dame (USCTrojans.com).
#8: Darrell K Royal–Texas Memorial Stadium – Austin, Texas (100,119)
Home of the Texas Longhorns since 1924, the Texas Memorial Stadium was officially named in honor of Darrel K Royal in 1996. Royal enlisted in the US Army Air Corps in 1943 and later went on to be the most successful coach in Texas Longhorns college football history. He led the Longhorns to three of their four national championships in school history. His career record of 167–47–5 as the head coach at the University of Texas earns him the most wins in school history. This stadium has proven to be a great home field advantage for the Longhorns; through the 2015 season, their all-time winning percentage at Texas Memorial Stadium was 76.5% (Unnamed Writer, Texas Sports). As is often the case for major college football games, extra seats were added to Texas’ home game against Notre Dame on September 4th, 2016. The unranked Longhorns beat the #10 Fighting Irish 50-47 in double overtime in front of a crowd of 102,315 spectators, the record attendance in this stadium’s history.
#7: Bryant–Denny Stadium – Tuscaloosa, Alabama (101,821)
The current home of the Alabama Crimson Tide, who have 17 claimed national championships, it may be surprising to learn this stadium is only the fourth largest in the SEC (Southeastern Conference). Originally opening in 1929 as Denny Stadium, in honor of Alabama University’s President George H. Denny, through the 2010 season the Crimson Tide enjoyed an all-time winning percentage of 80.6% here (Izzy Gould, Alabama Sports). In 1975, the state legislature honored Paul “Bear” Bryant by adding his name to the stadium. Bryant led the Crimson Tide to six national championships and has the most wins ever at Bryant–Denny Stadium, with a career record of 72-2 there. While this stadium may not be the largest, even in the SEC, beating Alabama’s football team at home is one of the tallest orders in college sports. Bleacher Report ranks it as the fifth toughest and second-best overall stadium in the country to play; Sporting News ranks it as the single toughest (Wes O’Donnell, Bleacher Report). Since 2010, when an expansion to the current capacity of 101,821 was complete, Alabama home games – especially against SEC rivals – frequently sellout very quickly (Gentry Estes, Mobile Press).
#6: Tiger Stadium – Baton Rouge, Louisiana (102,321)
Next on the list is Tiger Stadium, commonly referred to as “Death Valley”, home of the LSU Tigers. When filled to the capacity of 102,321 (which happened most recently on November 5, 2016 against SEC rival Alabama), the crowd in Tiger Stadium would rank as the fifth largest city by population in the entire state of Louisiana. The nickname “Death Valley” didn’t catch on by accident; Tiger Stadium is well known for having a uniquely electric atmosphere. There are countless testimonials attesting to this, perhaps none more convincing than one from SEC rival “Bear” Bryant of Alabama. Despite having a 14-2 record in Death Valley, Bryant once remarked, “Baton Rouge happens to be the worst place in the world for a visiting team. It’s like being inside a drum” (David Lavender, Rivals.com). There’s been ongoing controversy throughout the years within LSU, as the Tigers strongly prefer nighttime games but are hamstrung by the SEC’s lucrative television contract with CBS. The contract requires a majority of LSU home games to be played in the afternoon, but over the years the Tigers have been especially difficult to play against at night in Death Valley (Chet Hilburn, WestBow Press). In any case, Tiger Stadium is never a welcoming environment to opposing teams. – has claimed 3 NCAA championships and when having to recruit against rival Alabama, with 17 NCAA championships, Death Valley is often a very useful tool for the Tigers.
#5: Neyland Stadium – Knoxville, Tennessee (102,455)
Home of the Tennessee Volunteers, a third consecutive SEC school on this list, Neyland Stadium opened in 1921 and has since had 16 expansion projects. Named after Robert Neyland, a brigadier general in the US Army who also coached the Volunteers to four of their six NCAA titles, this stadium had an official capacity of 104,079 at its peak. The highest recorded attendance at Neyland Stadium was on September 18, 2004, when a Tennessee home game against the Florida Gators amassed a crowd of 109,061. As is the case with others on this list, the Volunteers have had a big advantage playing at home in Neyland Stadium over the years. Through the 2016 season, the Volunteers had a winning percentage of 78.9% at Neyland Stadium, including 36 seasons with a perfect record at home and a 30 game home win streak between 1928 and 1933 (Unnamed Writer, UTSports.com). While not known for the rowdiness of their SEC counterparts, the Volunteers home stadium is regarded as one of the nicest facilities in the FBS. The orange and white checkered end zone pattern has been a staple of the Tennessee Volunteers football program for decades.
#4: Kyle Field – College Station, Texas (102,733)
Kyle Field, frequently referred to as the “Home of the 12th Man”, is the home stadium of the Texas A&M Aggies and the largest stadium in the SEC. Built in 1927, Kyle Field had an official capacity of 106,511 at its peak in 2014. On October 11 2014, Texas A&M’s home game against the Ole Miss Rebels at Kyle Field had an attendance of 110,631 people. Not only is this the record attendance for Kyle Field, it was the largest football game attendance in the state of Texas and SEC history (Unnamed Writer, Associated Press). The Aggies, who have three claimed NCAA titles in their school’s history, have seen a large fluctuation in win percentage at home, as well as overall, due to their recent conference moves. Between 1915-1996, the Aggies competed in the Southwest Conference before moving to a more competitive Big 12 Conference from 1996-2011. Texas A&M football began playing in the highly competitive SEC to start the 2012 season, where they’ve struggled since their inaugural year in 2012. In 2012 Texas A&M, under first-year head coach Kevin Sumlin, finished ranked Top 5 in the nation, led the SEC in total offense, and beat SEC heavyweight Alabama (who was ranked #1 in the nation). Though they’ve struggled by Texas A&M’s standards in the SEC since, leading to Sumlin’s firing in 2017, Kyle Field is still widely acknowledged as a highly intimidating venue for visiting teams (Sal Interdonato, Times Herald). The “12th Man” reference came from the nearly 4,000 square-foot “Jumbotron” Texas A&M installed during the 2006 offseason. The A&M Athletic Department dubbed it “12th Man TV”; at the time it was the second largest in college athletics and inside the top 10 largest in the world (Matt Simon, AggieAthletics.com).
#3: Ohio Stadium – Columbus, Ohio (104,944)
Moving away from the SEC to the Big Ten Conference, Ohio Stadium is home to the Ohio State Buckeyes football program. With several nicknames, the most popular being “The Horseshoe”, Ohio Stadium opened in 1922. Since then, there have been a total of 21 expansion projects ultimately bringing the current official capacity to its peak of 104,944 in 2014. The largest recorded attendance at The Horseshoe came fairly recently, on November 26, 2016, when 110,045 fans watched the #2 Ohio State Buckeyes beat the #3 Michigan Wolverines 30-27 in double overtime (Unnamed Writer, 10TV.com). The Buckeyes, with eight claimed NCAA championships in their school’s history, have consistently been ranked inside the top 5 programs by attendance in the FBS for many years. As recently as 2014, they led the FBS in attendance, drawing an average of 106,296 fans per home game (Pat Forde, Yahoo Sports). While LSU, Alabama, and other Big Ten rivals undoubtedly have passionate fans, the Buckeye fans are as enthusiastic as any. Anyone familiar with Ohio State football will know the famous O-H-I-O chant to be symbolic of that, which starts with the South end yelling O, moving to the East for the H, then the North with I, and closing out the loop in the West with another O. This chant normally loops around the stadium for about 10 minutes before kickoff, at which point the entire stadium yells O and immediately following the kick, the stadium chants O-H-I-O in unison one final time.
#2: Beaver Stadium – University Park, Pennsylvania (106,572)
By far the most recently built stadium on this list, Beaver Stadium, was opened in 1960. Home of the Penn State Nittany Lions football program, Beaver Stadium’s current official capacity of 106,572 makes it the second largest stadium in the Western Hemisphere and the third largest in the world (Aimee Suzanne Brown-Shadduck, gopsusports.com). Named after former Governor of Pennsylvania James A. Beaver, the stadium recently broke its all-time attendance record on October 21, 2017, when a crowd of 110,823 watched Penn State steamroll their Big Ten rival Michigan Wolverines 42-13. I’m sure you’ve noticed this is a common theme for most teams that have home games in stadiums on this list, but Beaver Stadium has had a longstanding reputation of being one of the toughest places for opposing teams to play. Their student section in particular has received a lot of national recognition over the years and in 2008, Beaver Stadium’s student section was pegged as the best in the country for the second consecutive year by ESPN (Kirk Herbstreit, ESPN). As recently as 2016, Beaver Stadium was voted the number one college football stadium in the country in a USA Today poll, garnering nearly 42% of the vote (Alan Siegel, USA Today). The Penn State Nittany Lions football program, which has two official claimed NCAA titles, has slowly been recovering from the scandal that shattered the reputation of Joe Paterno. Their fan base remains extremely loyal; Nittany Lions football is the closest FBS fans in the Northeast region get to a national title contending football program.
#1: Michigan Stadium – Ann Arbor, Michigan (107,601)
The number one spot on this list goes to Michigan Stadium, home of the Michigan Wolverines football program. Known as “The Big House” – a very fitting nickname – Michigan Stadium was opened in 1927. After an expansion project was completed in 2010, the official capacity of this stadium was 109,901, up until 2015 when a smaller upgrade project dropped the official capacity to its current 107,601. Michigan Stadium currently holds the NCAA single-season average home attendance record, set in 2012 when they averaged 112,252 fans per game (NCAA.com). The highest attendance recorded at Michigan Stadium came in a Wolverines home game on September 7, 2013, where Michigan beat Notre Dame 41-30 in front of a crowd of 115,109. Michigan Stadium became known as “The Big House” in the mid-1980s, when they began drawing unparalleled crowd sizes. On November 4, 2006, the Wolverine’s home game against Ball State University was their 200th consecutive game with over 100,000 fans in attendance (Jim Knight, Ann Arbor News). With 11 claimed NCAA titles, most would agree the rich history of the Michigan Wolverines football program justifies their lavish home field and ardent fan base.
Michigan Stadium is the largest sports stadium in the United States, the largest in the Western Hemisphere, and the second largest in the world. Just to be clear, motor and horse racing venues are excluded from all lists that look into sports stadium capacities, as they are not equitable for comparison. As previously mentioned, the top 8 stadiums on this list (starting with Darrell K Royal–Texas Memorial Stadium and ending with Michigan Stadium) make up the second through ninth largest sports stadiums in the world. So which stadium is the largest and who is it home to? Perhaps a very popular European national soccer team, such as England? England national team’s home field, Wembley Stadium, falls short with a capacity of 90,000. Many may be surprised to learn that May Day Stadium in North Korea, primarily used for North Korea’s national soccer team matches, is the largest sports stadium in the world. The stadium can seat approximately 114,000 attendees and the total capacity is assessed at around 150,000 people (Jonathan Watts, The Guardian).
Posted on April 20, 2018 in Life of a College Athlete
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