Fall Saturdays are special.
Small towns, huge crowds, tailgating, bands, cheerleaders and student sections are just a few of the reasons college football is the best sport on the planet. When campuses jump to life across the nation each weekend in the fall, college stadiums become a staging ground for history.
There are a variety of ways to evaluate the greatness of a stadium. Huge attendance numbers, home-field advantage in the win-loss column, rich traditions, picturesque landscapes and amenities are just a few of the aspects that must be considered to rank so many great college football cathedrals.
With that in mind, here's how the stadiums in the ACC stack up.
1. Memorial Stadium, Clemson
2012 Attendance: 81,427 (15th nationally)
There are only two atmospheres in the ACC that compare to the SEC's on Saturdays and Clemson Memorial Stadium is the best. Dubbed “Death Valley” by the late Presbyterian coach Lonnie McMillan after watching his teams get thumped by the Tigers for years, CMS has been home to historic moments and raucous crowds for more than 70 years. The fifth oldest venue in the ACC, this college football cathedral witnessed the first meeting between father and son head coaches (Bowden Bowl I) and is filled with timeless traditions. One of the most well known, of course, is the rubbing of “Howard’s Rock.” A notable Clemson alumnus brought the rock from Death Valley, Calif., and it has been affixed atop a pedestal in the East end zone for nearly 50 years. One legend has it that Memorial Stadium set the record for the loudest college football stadium at 133 decibels in 2007. Current Tigers head coach Dabo Swinney certainly likes the comforts of home. He is 25-4 at Memorial Stadium during his four years as Clemson's head coach.
2. Lane Stadium, Virginia Tech
2012 Attendance: 65,632 (25th)
The only building in the ACC that can give Death Valley a run for its money is in Blacksburg, Va. Named after former Tech graduate and Board of Visitors member Edward H. Lane, the beautiful venue is the largest stadium in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Frank Beamer and his Hokies are 51-8 at home during his career and haven’t lost more than one game at home during any season since joining the ACC in 2004. Before moving to the ACC, Tech went 32-9 in Lane Stadium while a member of the Big East. The Highty Tighties, Marching Virginians and “Enter Sandman” get the crowd riled up before every home game as players rush out from the tunnel slapping a slab of Hokie Stone en route to the field. Aside from the boisterous crowd (and excellent football team), part of what makes this venue so intimidating is its altitude of 2,057 feet above sea level — making it the highest stadium in the Eastern United States.
3. Doak Campbell Stadium, Florida State
2012 Attendance: 75,601 (19th)
Named after former Florida State president Doak S. Campbell, The Doak is known for its vicious football teams and gorgeous student section. Renamed in 2004 as Bobby Bowden Field, a nine-foot statue and three-story stained-glass window of the legendary coach were added to the facilities. The Noles are 260-86-4 all-time in the largest stadium in the ACC and, interestingly enough, the gorgeous brick façade makes DCS the largest continuous brick building in the United States. The cowgirls go crazy when Chief Osceola rides in on his steed and plants his flaming spear into the 50-yard line before each home game.
4. Kenan Memorial Stadium, North Carolina
2012 Attendance: 50,286 (38th)
One of the most picturesque places to watch a football game, Kenan Stadium was named after dairy farmer and 1894 UNC graduate William Kenan. It is the second-oldest football venue in the ACC, and could be, in the very near future, the ACC’s nicest as major renovations are underway. The “Blue Zone” will turn the horseshoe into a complete bowl with premium seating and innovative features while an upgrade of overall stadium facilities across the board will make the fan’s experience one of the best in the conference. The Tar Heels are 12-2 over their last two seasons in Kenan.
5. Carter-Finley Stadium, NC State
2012 Attendance: 54,106 (37th)
Originally named Carter Stadium after Harry and Wilbert Carter, Finley was added in 1978 after another major benefactor Albert Finley. Two unique aspects to CFS that add to its value is that fans are allowed to leave and re-enter the stadium — I wonder what they do in the parking lot? — and that it has the smallest clearance between the stands and the field in the ACC. The crowds are right on top of the field and it makes it difficult on opposing teams, as was evident in last October’s upset of previously unbeaten Florida State. Over the last three seasons, the Wolfpack have lost 15 games but only three have come at home (16-3).
6. Bobby Dodd Stadium, Georgia Tech
2012 Attendance: 43,955 (54th)
The ACC’s oldest venue is located right in the heart of downtown Atlanta and was built for just $15,000 a century ago. Originally named Grant Field, Georgia Tech renamed the venue in 1988 as Bobby Dodd Stadium after the legendary Tech head coach. Many changes over time — Astroturf and the demolition of the South Stands and the 2003 expansion, for example — have made this stadium an ever-changing home for the Ramblin’ Wreck. And when the 1930 Ford Model A Sport coupe and Buzz the Yellow Jacket come flying across the field, the Bobby Dodd faithful erupt.
7. Scott Stadium, Virginia
2012 Attendance: 46,650 (46th)
Located on one of the most historic and culturally rich campuses in the nation, the Cavaliers' home is named after former university rector Frederic Scott. The signature white columns and grassy hill in the Northwest end zone are flanked by Monticello Mountain and the Blue Ridge Mountains. Scott Stadium has been witness to many historic ACC contests — namely, the Warrick Dunn goal-line stand. The Wahoos’ stadium is the seventh biggest and fourth oldest in the ACC.
8. Heinz Field, Pitt
2012 Attendance: 41,494 (58th)
From an amenities standpoint, few college stadiums can match the posh NFL home of the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Panthers' swanky digs, of course, come with the stigma of being the “other” team that plays at Heinz Field. While the venue has a great view of the Ohio River and features state-of-the-art technology, it isn’t located on campus, features roughly 20,000 empty seats each game and the home locker room doesn’t have Pitt Panthers logos plastered all over it.
9. Carrier Dome, Syracuse
2012 Attendance: 37,953 (61st)
If one can get past the fact that a dome named after a HVAC corporation doesn’t have air conditioning, the Orange’s home has plenty of character to offer. Nicknamed “The Loud House,” the Cuse’s home has a Teflon-coated, fiberglass inflatable roof that is one of the loudest in the nation. However, while it has been home to many historic showdowns and is the nation’s largest basketball arena, the Carrier Dome has seen better days and is failing to reach capacity on a regular basis.
10. Bryd Stadium, Maryland
2012 Attendance: 36,023 (64th)
Dr. H.C. Byrd was a multi-sport athlete and Terrapins alumni who went on to coach the football team and served as university president. It’s only fitting that the Terps' stadium was named after the prolific graduate.
11. Sun Life Stadium, Miami
2012 Attendance: 47,719 (44th)
The building is 25 minutes from campus and the fans don't exactly pack the bleachers to watch the 'Canes. While the building has the amenities of a stadium capable of hosting an NFL franchise and the BCS national title game, it lacks the connectedness most campus locations produce. It's a nice place to play a football game but it's distant, half-filled and devoid of character.
12. Alumni Stadium, Boston College
2012 Attendance: 37,020 (63rd)
The Eagles had been one of college football's most overachieving programs until recently. Not surprisingly, the team's struggles on the field have likewise resulted in a dip in attendance in the stands. Alumni Stadium can be a difficult place to play when it comes to big-time games (see College Gameday in 2009). However, it's tough to draw crowds to Chestnut Hill and when the team struggles, so does the stadium.
13. BB&T Field, Wake Forest
2012 Attendance: 28,912 (78th)
To Wake's fans' credit, there are typically never a ton of empty seats in BB&T and the recent round of upgrades have improved the fan's experience. However, failing to draw more than 30,000 fans per game in a major conference makes this venue inferior to the massive coliseums of the SEC, Big Ten or Big 12. The tailgating is picturesque and offers the quaintness of a homely, small-town college campus. But Wake Forest home games will never be confused with those in Columbus, Norman or Tuscaloosa.
14. Wallace Wade Stadium, Duke
2012 Attendance: 28,170 (79th)
Attendance has gotten better under the David Cutcliffe regime due in large part to winning more games. However, the stadium has seen its fair share of blowouts — and sparse crowds. The Duke faithful will pack Cameron Indoor long before filling Wallace Wade.
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