Ranking the Big Ten College Football Stadiums From #1 to #11

Ranking the Best Big Ten Football StadiumsInstead of showering today, I would rather talk about the football stadiums in the Big Ten and rank them top to bottom for various reasons while pointing out their typical fan bases. The one thing that draws me into being a huge college football fan (even before College Gameday started traveling) is the atmosphere that stadiums and teams generate.

On a side note, that is why I was a huge opponent of the Miami Hurricanes leaving the Orange Bowl and moving 20 miles north of their campus to Landshark Stadium. It is also home to the lackluster fan bases of the Dolphins and Marlins.

But let’s talk Big Ten since this is by and for Midwest sports fans.

I was excited to see Indiana’s newly renovated stadium on the Big Ten network and I am equally excited to see Minnesota leave the horrible Metrodome. Maybe their awesome new outdoor field will give them a home field advantage and some college atmosphere that they have been lacking. At least, they have since I have been alive.

That said, having a unique and imposing home field gives football teams the advantages they need to compete in the Big Ten, hosting visiting fans to a good experience, and sometimes an edge in recruiting.

(And, by the way, if you’re interested in attending any Big Ten games this year and don’t yet have tickets, click here to get great deals on Big Ten tickets from StubHub, or click on the name of each stadium to find tickets by team.)

1. Ohio Stadium (Ohio State) – 102,329 capacity

Nicknamed “The Horse Shoe,” but not a horse shoe anymore since the 2001 renovation. The top spot is really a toss-up between Penn State and Ohio State. Penn State just joined the Big Ten in 1993 though, so the tie-breaker goes to the Buckeyes (and include in that tie-breaker my years growing up in Columbus).Â

Ohio State has a raucous crowd that usually makes it deafening for the opposing squads.  Plus “The Best Damn Band In All The Land” marches across Woody Hayes Drive and onto the field before every game to form the famous Script Ohio, as seen below.

Ranking the Best Big Ten Football Stadiums - Ohio Stadium, Script Ohio

Fans run with the marching band and into the stadium as if they were scrambling to see an approach shot by Tiger Woods after a drive on the 18th hole. Other teams’ fans are annoyed at the obnoxious Buckeye fans as much as the British golf commentator is at the “GET IN THE HOLE!” guy at Augusta.

I just got goose bumps thinking of the craziness that occurs once the senior tuba player high steps his way to dot the “I” and the band belts out the oft played fight song. Everybody sings the words and yells O-H-I-O, each side owning one of the letters in order.

The Olentangy River runs right next to the stadium and serves as a great sight when walking through the miles of tailgates on fall Saturdays. The capacity expands to 105,000+ during big games, especially the Michigan game. You will have a hard time finding a sizeable road crowd during Big Ten games as the home fans just won’t give up their tickets so road fans can watch their team lose.

There is a reason there is a recruiting “fence” around the Ohio border and that reason is the memories conjured, the tradition, the size, and the atmosphere inside and out of Thee Ohio Stadium. I wanna go back to Ohio State, to old Columbus Town!

[Editor’s Note: And those of us who don’t bleed scarlet and gray like you are now ready to vomit.]

2. Beaver Stadium (Penn State) – 107,292 capacity

The capacity is 107,282 and they have stuffed 110,000+ during big match-ups. Kirk Herbstreit deemed Happy Valley with the best student section in college football with the senior student section forming a block “S” in blue and white shirts or body paint.

I absolutely agree with Kirk. And so do my dead brain cells after partying with some of the craziest party people I ever met when I lived on South Beach. “They Were! Penn State!” (graduates).

The “White Outs” and the noise make this the hardest place for a road team to get any sort of rhythm in the Big Ten. If the crowd wasn’t loud enough, they have a huge Jumbotron and booming sound system that plays a cat-like roar, making the crowd’s roar just as intimidating.

Unlike Ohio Stadium, it is nice to see they have the crew smart enough to keep lush natural grass every year. This Saturday afternoon football church in Happy Valley reeks of Preparation H for old alumni, liquored up party people with flasks, and sexy college co-eds. In a good way.

3. Camp Randall Stadium (Wisconsin) – 80,321 capacity

Though not as large as Beaver Stadium, Wisconsin’s student section rivals that of Penn State. To reference dead brain cells again, some of the craziest party people I know in Indianapolis and Chicago are Wisconsin graduates.

The UW band sets off the crowd playing drinking songs, pop songs, and dance songs. And, of course, the sound man gets everyone jumping before the fourth quarter during “Jump Around” by House of Pain, a tradition that started against Purdue in 1998. The video below takes place during an Indiana game…which I am sure Wisconsin won.  By a lot.

Video: Fans Jump Around at Camp Randall Stadium

Come to think of it, that would be a great nickname and slogan for the stadium: “Welcome to the House of Pain.”

The marching band was also suspended in 2006 and 2008 because of some off-the-field antics including hazing and sexual misconduct on road trips (sounds like a good time to me).

[Editor’s Note: Midwest Sports Fans does not explicitly endorse KVB’s idea of a good time.]

Established in 1917, Camp Randall is the oldest stadium in the Big Ten and the atmosphere (literally) is host to horrible weather conditions that stifles many road teams. The visiting locker room has been painted pale pink in the past and now a pale blue supposedly to distract the road teams.Wisconsin is currently 30-3 at home since painting it the distracting “prison blue” color.

If you travel there for a night game, expect the bad weather and bad play by your team. Even the Green Bay Packers play one preseason game a year at Camp Randall Stadium. In turn the Wisconsin marching band attends at least one Packers game at Lambeau Field a year.

4. Michigan Stadium aka “The Big House” (Michigan) – 106,201 capacity

They are adding more seats to reach 108,000 plus by 2010. Insert “The Big House” and the fans that sit on their hands in silence here.

Ranking the Best Big Ten Football Stadiums - Michigan Stadium, The Big House
M. (for Michigan) Night Shymalan, Super Wolverine, and the Wrist Band Warrior


Ranking the Best Big Ten Football Stadiums - Michigan Stadium, The Big House
One of two things is happening here. A) Michigan just lost to Appalachian State; or B) The guy in the bottom right hand corner of the picture just farted. Or perhaps both? (photo credit: LON HORWEDEL, THE ANN ARBOR NEWS)


And by the way, if you don’t remember what inspired the despondent looks on the faces of the Michigan turds fans above, watch the first few minutes of the video below:

Video: Appalachian State Upsets Michigan

Interesting to me is that Ann Arbor only has an 114,000 person population so you know the town basically shuts down until football is over. That is how college football Saturdays should be.

You have no idea the size of the stadium on the outside since it is built with the stands and the field going down and underground from where you walk up to the ticket gates. One thing I will say about Michigan fans (like Buckeye fans) is that a road fan will be hard pressed to find extra tickets because the fan base is so loyal. Even if they are not that loud or intimidating, or that idiotic or drunk.

Michigan Stadium has hosted Wolverine football since 1927 and the famous Fielding Yost. As an Ohio State fan, I find it funny that they played on “Ferry Field” before Michigan Stadium. I couldn’t make that up. Never.

5. Kinnick Stadium (Iowa) – 70,585

Ranking the Best Big Ten Football Stadiums - Kinnick Stadium, Iowa HawkeyesAnother stadium holding a pink-painted visitors locker room, but this wasn’t done by mistake like perhaps the drunk and stoned Wisconsin students in Madison. Former coach Hayden Fry majored in psychology at Baylor University and believed the pink color had a calming effect that could make visitors have less mental toughness and be less aggressive after pissing in a pink urinal.

Some women and those in the gay/lesbian community have protested for it to be changed saying it is a slap in the face to their lifestyle. (This furthers my believability that grassroots campaigns did in fact legalize gay marriage in the state earlier this year.)

Back to the stadium, it is about as boring as the dunkards who live in Iowa. But I will give Iowa’s only Heisman Trophy winner (Nile Kinnick) and Hayden Fry credit for instilling some excitement on Saturdays and creating a real loyal fan base. Iowa, which stands for Idiots Out Walking Around, takes a break from doing that every Saturday and they travel well as I noticed at the 2003 Orange Bowl.

6. Ross-Ade Stadium (Purdue) – 62,500 capacity

And here we have the first major drop off in atmosphere on this list.  I have a hard time giving a lot of Purdue football fans any credit. Unfortunately I’ve probably been to 30 or so games at Ross-Ade, so I can say that.

Ranking the Best Big Ten Football Stadiums - Ross-Ade Stadium, Purdue

Every top-10 matchup in Ross-Ade is invaded by the road team’s fans. Most Purdue fans were born and bred on Hoosier basketball, thanks to the movie and Coaches Knight and Keady. Hence, they know nothing about football, how it is played, and of all people the likes of Jim Everett and Joe Tiller taught the fans what winning takes. No, not loyal support, hard work, and consistency; but rather gimmicks and repetitive passing systems that have a hard time lining up when smash mouth, goal line situations are needed.

Tiller first took the Big Ten by storm with the spread and now every time there is a run up the middle the crowd groans and boos. That takes stupidity like calling an offense “Basketball On Grass” as some do. I’ve never seen a more boring ragtime marching band entertainment at halftime than Purdue’s, the “World’s Biggest Drum” and a dance team of fatties dancing the charleston included.

Purdue fans hate it when I say this stuff, but that is because it is true.

A good thing is they did a great renovation enclosing the stadium, have an incredibily large video board, and there is not really a bad seat in the house. So you might as well go see your favorite team in West Lafayette and piss in one of the troughs installed in the restrooms (it’s a Northern Indiana thing, you wouldn’t understand).

Now back to crappiness.

About 15,000 University of Oregon fans took over Ross-Ade last year! The natural Bermuda grass is supposedly a credit to Purdue’s agricultural department finding prescription athletic turf. Good for them. I personally love natural turf. (This paragraph is brought to you by, “Obnoxious Ohio State Fan” mentioned earlier in the article. He’s righteous!)

7. Memorial Stadium (Illinois) – 70,000 capacity

Sorry I’ll be much more positive the rest of the way. Just make sure you send #6 to an IU fan. They need some cheering up come football season.

And speaking of Memorial Stadium, also the name of IU’s stadium, the older of the two is in Champaign and opened in 1924 with Red Grange scoring six touchdowns against Michigan on its official dedication game in October. This Memorial Stadium is a dedication to the men and women who died in the World Wars and has sported artificial turf since 1974.

I love that the original drawing for this stadium was to support more than 80,000 people and have a tall phallic monument in the North end zone.  They eventually settled on the smaller capacity and no monument.

In 2002 the stadium hosted the Chicago Bears while Soldier Field was getting renovated.

Oh, and Ron Zook coaches there now. When he’s not water skiing or bitching at Urban Meyer.

8. Spartan Stadium (Michigan State) – 75,505 capacity

Spartan Stadium fell a lot on my list because I have seen too many big games blown on their own field. Most people blame the coach for this, but I just drop their home field advantage down a notch. Heck, their best win in the 90s was against #1 Ohio State in Ohio Stadium. How do this not hurt Ohio Stadium instead of Spartan Stadium? Simple. The ineptitude since then.

The most exciting things Spartan fans see on TV or at the stadium lately have been an introduction to the basketball team or a sideline reporter interviewing Tom Izzo in the middle of the second quarter while the team was losing. I can hear Mark Dantonio now…”I get no respect, no respect.”

Well, you’re right considering the high school talent that floods your stadium’s gates.

Ranking the Best Big Ten Football Stadiums - TCF Bank Stadium - Minnesota9. TCF Bank Stadium (Minnesota) – 50,300 capacity.

Gopher fans finally have a stadium on their campus and outdoors. This really makes me happy. There probably wasn’t a worse college football atmosphere than the Metrodome. This new stadium, on the other hand, could move up in the rankings once it opens this year.

TCF Bank Stadium includes an apparent easy-to-80,000 person capacity renovation that could take place if the team shows success on the field and makes some extra money in bowl games. It will also include the third largest outdoor HD video board in the nation.

The con here is it is outdoor and cannot bat down opposing team’s punts during games. Though I cannot imagine anyone in the Minnesota administration would have the arrogance of Jerry Jones, refusing to move such a video board if it did get in the way. HD really has us by the nuts doesn’t it?

10. Memorial Stadium (Indiana) - 53,500 capacity.

I love how this Memorial Stadium in Bloomington is dedicated to a rock while Illinois’ is dedicated to war heroes. That’s solid, solid as a rock. Very Charlie Brown in the Halloween episode. I did see the renovations to the stadium on TV and it is finally a Big Ten-worthy stadium. Too bad it wasn’t built for a better program, but I suppose IU does have its moments. While most people complain the top Big Ten teams don’t have a tough conference, IU fans complain their conference schedule is way too tough to compete.

[Editor’s Note: As an IU fan and alum, I can categorically say that I’ve never complained about the conference schedule being too tough. Except when we play Minnesota and Northwestern at home.  Those games are haaarrrrrddd!]

11. Ryan Field (Northwestern) - 49,256 capacity.

I know I said I would get shorter with my writing as the list fell lower on the list. So in lieu of saying anything about Ryan Field, just watch the video below. It makes me happy, and unless you’re a douche it will make you happy too.


Really though, Evanston is a great section of Chicago because of this campus.

Well, now you’ve seen my rankings.  What do you think?

[poll id=”147″]


* – Ohio Stadium Script Ohio photo credit: Ames Photos

* – Beaver Stadium S-Zone photo credit: Ames Photos

* – Super Wolverine and the Wrist Band Warrior photo credit: DawgSports.com

* – Michigan fans reacting during App State loss photo credit: Lon Horwedel, The Ann Arbor News via MLive.com

* – Kinnick Stadium pink locker room: Sondrak.com

* – Ross-Ade Stadium penis photo credit: Deadspin.com

* – TCF Bank Stadium photo credit: GopherSports.com

About the Author

Kevin Bertolini

Midwesterner. I grew up in Columbus Ohio and later in Indiana, blacked out for 7 years in Miami and now live in Indianapolis. I am very knowledgeable on Ohio State Buckeye football but all of College Football in my opinion. The White Sox are my favorite MLB team. The Cubs are the worst thing in the world next to Brady Hoke. I also enjoy the St. Louis Rams and Jeff Fisher's mustache.