One of the things I'm most frequently asked when talking about Road to CFB is, "What is your favorite stadium? How would you rank them?"
Last year, I wrapped up my tour of the Big 12 football stadiums. Now that the 2021-22 college football season is in the history books, I thought now would be a good time to release my thoughts on every Big 12 football stadium.
Of course, everything here is subjective. These are just my thoughts on them. Let me know on social media, @RoadtoCFB, what you think of these rankings and what your favorites are in the Big 12.
In order to thoroughly rank these stadiums, I took into account a few factors:
- Overall venue feel (look, layout, etc.)
- Mobility (Concourse movement, size, seating bowl walkability)
- Stadium environment (Inside, not including tailgating and the likes)
- Fullness (Self-explanatory)
- Cleanliness (Self-explanatory)
Note: This isn't ranking the entire game day. So, I didn't account tailgating, campus, city location– none of that stuff. Check back later for a post on game day evaluation.
One more note: Save the "Well you clearly haven't been there for [insert game of the millenium at said stadium here]." You're right– I probably haven't. But if there's a caveat to stadium greatness, it's likely deserved of its ranking.
1. Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium
Location: Norman, Oklahoma
When you earn a nickname like the "Palace on the Prairie," you're doing something right. Oklahoma Memorial Stadium is like a rite of passage for college football fans. Sooner fans are passionate, the game is packed to the gills with tradition, and there's rarely an open bench at kickoff.
I've been to a few games in Norman, and it's just tops in the Big 12. The renovations to the south end zone complex and the Barry Switzer Center bring this stadium into the modern day. The press box needs work, but– unless you're media– you don't even notice.
Oklahoma Memorial Stadium is not only the best stadium in the Big 12, but a top-tier venue in all of college football.
2. Darrell K Royal Texas Memorial Stadium
Location: Austin, Texas
The best way to describe the sheer size of DKR-Texas Memorial Stadium is that, from the upper 100s section, I was able to watch a thunderstorm pass over San Marcos– over 30 freaking miles away. I was able to verify this with some friends that lived down there. Very few times have I walked into a stadium and been completely awestruck.
So, why does it fall below Oklahoma? I was very underwhelmed with the stadium atmosphere. For being one of the few 100,000+ stadiums, it has to be the quietest. That's not saying the atmosphere sucks completely, but those who have been to Penn State, LSU, or Ohio State know what I'm getting at. Of course the place was jumping in 2019 against LSU. I mean on any given game day.
I also know that the photo above isn't since the recent renovation, I'm working on it.
3. Boone Pickens Stadium
Location: Stillwater, Oklahoma
Everything about the design of BPS is intended to trap crowd noise and I'm here for it. The basketball arena that's backed right up to the east end zone and just reverberates cheers and boos right back inside. My favorite aspect of this stadium is the gold trim and marble (maybe? I'm not a geologist) floors at every gate. Just beautiful.
The monster scoreboard in the east end zone used to be used to throw off opposing kickers, which is fun, but outlawed the day after it was tried. A lesser-known tradition in the nation is Oklahoma State's Paddle People. It's exactly what it sounds like: a bunch of front-row students banging on the walls with paddles. When an opponent is backed up in the west end zone, it's very disruptive.
BPS is also incredibly accessible to get around in. Wide concourses are perfect for the capacity– something not true with really any stadium built before the modern football area (1950). The seating is also arranged in a way where theres's zero bad seats. Every seat is a good seat.
4. Milan Puskar Stadium
Location: Morgantown, West Virginia
This one's more about the tradition and stadium environment than anything else. At its base, Milan Puskar Stadium is a fine facility; nice indoor right next door, but it's not that special. To experience why its fourth in the Big 12, you have to be there on a Saturday.
This is personal preference but Take Me Home, Country Roads is a top-five tradition in college football. I don't care what you say. WVU is a cool place for football in a part of the country that doesn't have a ton of that. Mountaineer fans are incredibly passionate and this stadium is really loud for a design that lets out sound.
Also personal, I was mistaken for a freshman player reporting to camp in the summer of 2017 and got access to all the facilities and the field at Milan Puskar. So, maybe this is just me, but WVU is a low-key wonderful place to catch a football game.
5. Jones AT&T Stadium
Location: Lubbock, Texas
Texas Tech can be one of the most intimidating environments for opposing fans at night. Laugh all you want– you can't knock it 'til you've been. Blackouts are common in Lubbock for whenever a big opponent comes to town. Fans are raucous and the tortilla throw is a great tradition. Students have to get creative about smuggling tortillas in since the stadium security checks for them.
I also give style points for the retro T logo that serves as the scoreboard in the south end zone. Speaking of, the south end zone complex is one-of-a-kind and gives Jones AT&T another points boost.
Rather than building up, Texas Tech built out. Other stadiums that employ that strategy include Michigan Stadium (Michigan), the Rose Bowl (UCLA), and Ross-Ade Stadium (Purdue). I'm not sure there's a view benefit from being further out than up, but it makes those top seats a lot more accessible.
6. Amon G. Carter Stadium
Location: Fort Worth, Texas
If I made this list a few years ago, Amon G. Carter might come in at eight or nine in the rankings. But their brand-new, state-of-the-art renovation is truly amazing. I had the privilege of experiencing a game from up in the Legend's Club, and this new structure is as great as it looks.
If you get up in the upper 200s, you can get pretty disassociated from the action. It's an incredibly steep climb and is right up there with larger stadiums' nosebleeds like Texas. But if you get down close, the views are great; you're right on top of the action.
All of the renovations boost Amon G. Carter Stadium– as does the accessibility (it's open during the day, which is cool). However, the crowds lately have dwindled. At the Frogs' peak, between 2013-2015, this place was jumping. But the small student basis and overall crowd field isn't top-tier. The facility really holds its own water here.
7. McLane Stadium
Location: Waco, Texas
The layout to McLane Stadium is very similar to Amon G. Carter in many ways– open concourse that allows viewing the game as you walk about the facility, similar lower bowl structure, etc. What knocks it down the list for me, though, is the lack of personality. The outside of McLane Stadium is unmistakable, but the inside is just so... plain. For a stadium built this recently, I think it's a missed opportunity.
The air flow in this stadium is also dreadful. It points north-south, which is really to the detriment of fans inside; there's no wind at all (which, during September games, can be a real pain). The grass end zone is cool, but it's completely closed off if you have a ticket.
However, the Baylor Line and its placement in the stadium is incredible. The students in yellow (see above) are breathing right down the necks of opposing players. This causes plenty of exchanges and can really get in the head of visiting teams. The view of the Brazos River is pretty great, too.
It only sits down this low because I expected more out of a "new" stadium (relative to the rest of the country).
8. Jack Trice Stadium
Location: Ames, Iowa
I specifically didn't use a picture with fans in Jack Trice Stadium to accentuate a point. I question whether or not the bleachers in this place have been replaced since 1975. In fact, has any feature of Jack Trice been touched up since 1975? The colored bleachers are a great idea, but there's large sections that just don't have them.
This is a stadium in a distressed state (or, used, if you want an endearing term).
That said, I love the scoreboard. It's so funky and unique, I have a soft spot for it. The end zone complex is pretty cool, too. And credit to Cyclone fans, this place is usually full on any given Saturday. Iowa State's seen a period of prolonged success under Matt Campbell and the fans are into it. However, Jack Trice doesn't hold that noise in too well due to its design, so it's not the loudest place in the world.
9. Bill Snyder Family Stadium
Location: Manhattan, Kansas
Good news for all of the stadiums listed above, Bill Snyder Family Stadium is as middle-of-the-road as you can get for a college football stadium. The design is good not great; it's in pretty good condition, not pristine; it's fairly new comparatively, but still over 50 years old. It just is.
I'm a big fan of Wabash Cannonball, a tradition held for decades in Manhattan. The new stadium renovation added some pretty modern club seats, but that's where I run out of things to say.
Be good, be bad, just don't be boring. Kansas State is as average a stadium as you can get.
I thoroughly believe it'd make a perfect movie stadium, since it's believable as a professional venue, but no one would be able to pin which one.
10. Kansas Memorial Stadium
Location: Lawrence, Kansas
Kansas is a basketball school. They have one of the best basketball facilities in the country.
Their football stadium is abysmal. First, it's way too big. They have temporary/permanent mobile seating in one of the end zones with port-o-johns behind them. It's boring, weathered... I hate to beat down on Kansas, but this is just bad.
The picture above was taken from the ESPN broadcast of when Kansas was leading top-10 Oklahoma 10-0 at halftime. It was potentially such a monumental win for Kansas, that they just opened the stadium up and allowed anyone and everyone to come in, free of charge.
That's the crowd they mustered. Yikes.
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