This week, I focus on the top five places to play football in the Big XII. This is solely based on my own experiences. It is important to note I have never had the chance to play at Texas Tech, Texas, or Oklahoma due to injuries. Remember, these top five places are in no particular order, and based on fans, atmosphere, and maybe some biases!!
The first one I will talk briefly about in my top five is the Nebraska Cornhuskers, and Memorial Stadium/Tom Osborne Field. Home to the five-time national champions, I chose the Huskers on my list of five based on the crazy fans. The state of Nebraska dies for their Huskers and we, as ISU fans, definitely are aware of this. While at ISU, this place was one of the loudest places to play at. Their stadium is incredible, and one that is a fun one on Saturdays. Their stadium has processed a lot of good teams, and has a great tradition. If you haven't been there, imagine 70,000+ screaming fans, not to mention a press box that is marvelous. The playing field is composed of field turf, which is just like playing on a grass surface. If you have never been to a game here, it is definitely worth checking out!
2. Iowa State
The second place to play is Iowa State and Jack Trice stadium. This may be biased, but I loved playing in Jack Trice with the great gameday atmosphere! I chose Jack Trice in the top five because in my opinion, it has the greatest tailgating atmosphere you can find. The fans live for tailgating before the games. I reflect back to when I would get off the bus as player to see thousands and thousands of Cyclone fans filled in the parking lot tailgating! What a great sight to see! Let's not forget the renewed rivalry with the Cornhuskers, which started at Jack Trice in 2002 with the fans screaming at the top of their lungs during that special day. And just think, it will be even more electric and an even greater place to play, thanks to Jamie Pollard's proposal to renovate Jack Trice. It is definitely a hot commodity when the Hawkeyes and Cornhuskers are in town, and we hope to turn the tides and make it an annual sellout in the near future, which will make it a darn tough place for opposing teams to play. Look for the Cyclones to take the field under the Jacobson building with smoke rising through the air in 2006!
The third on my top five list is Folsum Field, home of the Colorado Buffalos. I have played here twice. The stadium is an older stadium, and if you look into the horizon you can catch a glimpse of the Rocky Mountains. The stadium kind of sits at the top of a hill in Boulder, Colorado, and you walk into the stadium that is sunk down. I wasn't all too impressed with the fans at Colorado, but it sure was a great place to play. The atmosphere on gameday is pretty neat. I have played in hot weather, and been on the field while snow was blanketing the field. This stadium seats over 50,000 fans, and it is noted as a tough place to play because it is supposedly harder to "breathe" with the elevation. But, I sure didn't notice it!
4. Texas A&M
The fourth on my list is Kyle Field, home of the Texas A&M Aggies, and the "12th Man." This stadium seats over 80,000 fans, and is a true state-of-the-art stadium. This stadium's gameday atmosphere is second to none! The stadium in located in College Station, Texas, a town truly made up of its college students. The students have a cheer practice the night before all home games. Amazing huh?! Wait a second...If you haven't heard about it, they have this thing going on where every other row of fans is swaying in opposite directions! Looks like the stadium is moving! It is pretty cool to see. So what is the "12th Man?" This refers to their fans being the 12th man on the field, because they are chanting chants, screaming, and doing their traditional sway, making it hard for the opponents to play. It is their way of saying their fans are part of the game, and their 12th man on the field. This is a MUST SEE place to watch a college football game. Their facilities might be one of the best in all of college football!
5. Kansas State
Last on my top five list is Wagner Field, home of the Kansas State Wildcats. This stadium has a great gameday atmosphere. For us Cyclone fans, who can forget about the announcer and fans saying, "That's for another Wildcat....First Down!!" Personally, being on the opposing side, it can be the most annoying thing you will hear during the course of the game. The field in located in Manhattan, Kansas, or as I like to say..the middle of nowhere. This stadium seats over 50,000 screaming Kansas State fans who fill the stands in nothing but solid purple! Minus last year, this place has built such a great tradition making it one of the hardest places to play in all of college football. From 1990-2001, the Wildcats only lost a mere five home games. That is pretty impressive!
These are my top five favorite places that I have been to. Theses stadiums truly have a fun gameday atmosphere that makes it special to play in, and fun to be a spectator. If you haven't been to any of these places, be sure to consider checking them out!! Sure Texas and Oklahoma may have been in the top five, but I haven't experienced them yet. Also coming in close was Oklahoma State who plays in Boone Pickens Stadium. That is a neat one to see as well! Tune in next week for the next "Vander Sanden's Top Five."
Thanks for listening.
Luke Vander Sanden