Friday, November 7, 2008

Top Stadiums in the Championship Subdivision

This past weekend UMass went down to URI and absolutely knocked the slop out of Rhody. It's always nice to see my alma mater stick it to the only school it faces annually in both football and basketball (Richmond is also in the same conference in both, but the Spiders compete in the CAA South for football so we only see them every couple of years). The game was at the Rams' Meade Stadium (right), a nice little facility that sits adjacent to their new basketball arena. While it's a perfectly suitable place to see a football game, Meade Stadium joined some of the other facilities I've seen UMass play at that just weren't particularly impressive. UNH and Northeastern suffer from a similar affliction. Especially Northeastern, who basically plays at a high school field. So I decided to compile a list of the premier stadiums in the championship subdivision. Admittedly, I have only been to a few of these, but based on tradition, television coverage and a few other factors, I think I can make a fairly educated list.

Honorable Mention:
McGuirk Stadium, University of Massachusetts.I don't actually feel this way. In fact, I hate McGuirk. I wish Jack Welch would just step up and offer 50 million dollars to help the school build a new stadium. Maybe that's what I'm putting here: The stadium that would exist if UMass elected to throw tens of millions of dollars into a new facility. Sure. That's it.

Finley Stadium, University of Tennessee, Chattanooga.The site of the Division 1 Football Championship since 1997, Finley Stadium is a nice, average sized FCS facility. About 22,000 spectators can attend the biggest game of the year at the 1-AA level, which UMass has participated in twice (1998, 2006).

Top 10:
10 - Harvard Stadium, Harvard University.This place was built 105 years ago. That would explain the mass of concrete. However, it's still one of the most aesthetically pleasing stadiums at this level. At points, including when it was home to the Boston Patriots in 1970, the stadium went all the way around and seated up to 57,000. Today, it holds about 32,000. Of course, it doesn't come anywhere close to that number against anyone except Yale.

9 - Paulson Stadium, Georgia Southern University.Georgia Southern was the Appalachian State of FCS not so long ago, with guys like Adrian Peterson trampling people en route to multiple championship game appearances. Today, the Eagles are more of a middle-of-the-pack team in the Southern Conference, but their stadium still holds up to its billing as "The Prettiest Little Stadium in America".

8 - Delaware Stadium (Raymond Field), University of Delaware.UD has one of the more passionate fan bases in FCS, and they regularly pack this place. Now if they would just man up and play those pesky cross-state rivals on a regular basis.

7 - Princeton Stadium, Princeton University.This place is awesome. It's one of a small number of multi-tiered stadiums at this level, and is done beautifully. This is what UMass needs to have in mind when they get that 50 mil from Jack Welch.

6 - Bridgeforth Stadium, James Madison University.This place is pretty awesome. I hadn't really seen it before UMass played the Dukes this year, but I'm sure most people became familiar with it during the JMU-App State game, when in the midst of Madison's enormous comeback, the fans got so fired up that the stadium was literally shaking.JMU has also announced some expansion plans for Bridgeforth (above), which look absolutely awesome.

5 - Franklin Field, University of Pennsylvania.For not playing particularly good football, the Ivy League has some awesome old stadiums. The Philadelphia Eagles actually called this place home for a while, and it is where the film "Incredible" was shot (probably because The Vet had been demolished).

4 - Fargodome, North Dakota State University.
Generally speaking, I hate dome stadiums. That being said, when your school is in Fargo I'd say you have a fairly legitimate excuse. In addition to that, it's actually a pretty nice place, and NDSU is building a monster program.

3 - Yale Bowl, Yale University.
Much like Franklin Field and Harvard Stadium, this place also was home to an NFL franchise (New York Football Giants). It is enormous by FCS standards, though much like Harvard Stadium, it doesn't get all that many spectators except for "The Game".

2 - Kidd Brewer Stadium, Appalachian State University.
App State clearly has become the beast of this level of football. Appropriately, they have expanded Kidd Brewer Stadium to hold over 20,000 fans. However, because they have a "hill" on one open end of the stadium (much like Virginia's Scott Stadium, Missouri's Faurot Field or Colorado State's Hughes Stadium), many more fans than that can attend games. And they do. On multiple occasions this season, App State has broken 30,000 in attendance.

1 - Washington Grizzly Stadium, University of Montana.
Still the most impressive facility in the championship subdivision, and with its new expansion, it will be even better. The fact is, the Grizz never lose at home, and while many factors go into that, a great stadium is a big part of any home field advantage.Of course, they aren't quite invincible in this place: While they haven't lost a home game in the regular season since October 15th, 2005, they've bowed out in the playoffs the past few years in dramatic fashion. Nonetheless, Montana continues to be an elite program at this level with a stadium to match.

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