Ranking the SEC’s football stadiums

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If you don’t love Saturdays Down South in an SEC Stadium, you’re doing it all wrong.

Tailgating, corn hole, bands, cheerleaders and thousands of rabid fans make going to games in the south much different than anywhere in the country.

So, let’s rank those top stadiums, shall we? And there are hundreds of different ways to rank stadiums. You can base it on noise, record or on anything else you feel justifies the ranking. SDS tried to account for everything.

Let’s get on it…

1. LSU’s Tiger Stadium

Capacity: 92,542
There’s nothing like Saturday night in Tiger Stadium. The nickname is Death Valley, where teams go to die, basically. It once measured on the Richter Scale in 1988 against Auburn, and the game is played in front of some of college football’s craziest fans. So, get your gumbo ready to roll, because LSU is expanding the beast to 100,000 seats. LSU is 50-7 under Les Miles at Tiger Stadium, and they have won 34 consecutive non-conference games dating back to 2002.

2. Alabama’s Bryant-Denny Stadium

Capacity: 101,821
The SEC’s second largest stadium is full of rabid Crimson Tide fans. Alabama owns a nasty 225-52-3 (.809) all-time home record. Dating back to the 1988 renovation, more than 14.2 million Alabama fans have witnessed a game in the venue. The atmosphere is electric, and Nick Saban’s 29-6 home record is just downright nasty. Urban Meyer said he knew he was officially in the SEC when he played at Bama and heard the voice of Bear Bryant.

Related: Meet the SEC West coaches’ wives

3. Florida’s Ben Hill Griffin Stadium

Capacity: 88,548
Florida has the stadium with three names – Ben Hill Griffin, Florida Field and The Swamp. You ask any player in the SEC what’s the toughest venue to play in, and the majority who have played at The Swamp will tell you Florida. The stadium goes up, not out, and the completely enclosed playing area lets fans be a major part of the game. The field of play was originally built in a shallow sinkhole, and the surface is below ground level. The crowd noise has been measured at 115 decibels. Florida fans have been known to be some of the toughest fans to play in front of.

4. Texas A&M’s Kyle Field

Capacity: 82.589
Kyle Field has an approved plan in place to become the SEC’s largest stadium with 102,500 people. But the pageantry of the 12th man fits right into the traditions of the SEC, and the Aggies always bring their A-game. Just last year, the Aggies hosted two of its largest crowds against LSU and Missouri, where 87,000-plus packed into the stadium. I mean, where else does the press box sway during pre-game? Kyle Field is the SEC’s oldest venue, having opening in 1904.

5. Georgia’s Sanford Stadium

Capacity: 92.746
‘Between the Hedges’ is really a sight to behold in the SEC. It’s not the biggest or the loudest, but it may be the sexiest stadium. Is that possible? The finely manicured hedges in the middle of a unreal campus. It’s like a scene right out of The Masters, with a crowd ready to cheer their Dawgs. The girls wear dresses, and the guys look like John Parker Wilson. Outside of Gary Pinkel, Mark Richt is the longest tenured SEC coach, and he’s registered a 63-13 career home record. If we’re talking college towns, Athens tops the list.

Related: Meet the SEC East coaches’ wives

6. Tennessee’s Neyland Stadium

Capacity: 102,455
Neyland Stadium at No. 6? This has to improve, and it will when winning returns to Knoxville. The Vols currently have the largest SEC stadium that holds 102,455 fans, but it hasn’t been full in a few years, thanks to several mediocre seasons. But few are better when the Vols host a top 10 matchup at night, and the checkerboard end zones are really something to behold. The Tennessee River and Vol Navy are a big part of the game day lore, and Neyland gets loud. The Power T is still one of the best pregame sights in the SEC.

7. Auburn’s Jordan-Hare Stadium

Capacity: 87,451
If you don’t get goose bumps when the eagle flies in the pregame air, you need to check your pulse. From the Tiger Walk to the pregame festivities, Auburn is definitely one to check out. The atmosphere lights up on game day, and Auburn really has some of the most passionate fans in the country. The stadium itself might not be that new, but the atmosphere can get out of control. Hopefully Gus Malzahn gives fans something to cheer about in 2013.

8. Arkansas’ Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium

Capacity: 72,000
An underrated stadium overall, Razorback Stadium is home to some of the country’s most rabid fans. Would it get its due if the Hogs played all their home games at Razorback Stadium? With no pro team in the state, Arkansas really comes out to support ‘the’ team in the state, and it shows on game day. Just bring your earplugs, because the “Woo Pig Sooie” will rattle your tooth fillings. Planned renovations will push the capacity to around 80,000, and the facilities are top notch.

Related: Why Bret Bielema is the best new SEC head coach long-term

9. South Carolina’s Williams-Brice Stadium

Capacity: 80,250
The electricity of the ‘Cockpit’ is riveting, and one of the loudest noises in the south is the ‘loud cock’. Over the last few years, Williams-Brice has been one of the toughest venues to play day or night, and that won’t change in 2013. This stadium is on the upswing, as Carolina keeps putting out 11-win seasons. Just make sure you get there early in time for one of college football’s best team entrances.

Related: 10 inappropriate ways to prepare for SEC football 2013

10. Missouri’s Memorial Stadium

Capacity: 71,009
One thing you’ll learn about Missouri’s fan base is they’re very loyal. So, they’ll be at Faurot Field rooting on their Tigers come rain or shine. Upsets have occurred in the past – think Oklahoma 2011. And the stadium is getting SEC-ready by adding a new luxury sweet tower and a facelift to the north end zone hill. Missouri fans fit right into the SEC, but winning will further that home turf.

11. Ole Miss’ Vaught-Hemmingway Stadium

Capacity: 60,580
It’s hard not to mention anything about Ole Miss without The Grove. Yes, it’s football’s finest tailgating time, but it’s not part of Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. If Ole Miss officials can figure out how to make the stadium as attractive as the Rebel ladies, then we’re talking about moving into the top three. Until that happens, the SEC’s third oldest stadium will still be a great place to catch a football game.

12. Mississippi State’s Davis Wade Stadium

Capacity: 55,082
MSU fans are very passionate, and if you were impressed with the way they showed up in Omaha, you’ll be impressed with Davis Wade. Their cowbells are loud, and Starkville is an underrated sports town. The stadium isn’t exactly deafening, but it definitely can get loud and stay loud. Season tickets are sold out again in 2013, and that’s a massive reason why there’s a $75 million upgrade going on to add more seats.

13. Kentucky’s Commonwealth Stadium

Capacity: 67,692
Mark Stoops nearly filled every seat in the Cats’ spring game. More than 50,300 fans showed up to watch the spring fling, and they’re hoping this carries over into the fall. The low attendance numbers had to do with the dreadful play of 2012’s squad. This fan base is passionate, loud and ready to have something to cheer about. If Kentucky starts off 2-0 before hosting Louisville, look out!

Related: SEC spring football attendance

14. Vanderbilt’s Vanderbilt Stadium

Capacity: 40,350
The Commodores’ stadium may not have the passion, tradition or pageantry of your favorite stadium, and it doesn’t scare many opposing teams, fans or coaches, but it’s not like it used to be. James Franklin is changing the tradition, but it’s still tough to get fans to show up at home games. And if you haven’t noticed, Vanderbilt fans are coming alive with their recent success, and there’s plenty room for moving up this packed list. Ole Miss coming to town week one will help this year get started off right.

Photo Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

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COMMENTS

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  • What were your requirements for attaining a higher ranking?

    • Welcome back, Jec. Nothing specific or standardized, but I think it’s university and venue specific. Different requirements for different venues and programs.

      • I figured as much. This has to be one of the hardest list as the top 6 could all be ranked in any order, and this list is really just completely opinionated based as there aren’t really any statistics/facts that can be provided to prove or disprove the list.
        Though I do think Vanderbilt Stadium should be ranked about Commonwealth Stadium.

  • I know I’m a little biased, but Jordan-Hare’s got to move up a at least a couple of spots with the introduction of 97 new Samsung flat-screens and a Domino’s Pizza (which doesn’t do much for me, personally). But, in what should move JH up to at least 5th: Five Momma Goldberg’s Deli locations. Boom. Momma’s Love? I believe I will…

  • John Parker Wilson went to Alabama and is from Alabama so why are you mentioning him in the Georgia section???

  • Looks bout right IMO. Swamp has fallen off since even a couple years ago. Was primo back in Spurrier’s days.

  • You don’t have Bryant-Denny Stadium ranked at the top!!! Well, that’s just jacked-up!!!

    You are risk at being cut off from those autographed photos of “Little Nicky Satan” you are some enamored with.

  • UK’s Commonwealth Stadium is bad….but a renovation plan was approved by the state this year and should be underway shortly. So, it’ll be better.

    • I love to go to Kentucky. It is traditional in every sense. There is not nut-to-butt seating/walking. To me it is great. The people are fantastic. As youwalk to the stadium you will be offered everything from food to playing bean bag to horse shoes to a beer/shot. No serious pushing and shoving. Just laid back and enjoyable. Old school. Always have and always will love going there. If I choose a game to go to out of state it is Kentucky by far. Auburn has the rudest most disrespectful. Never will I go there again. I have a chance to go this year but will not do so. LSWho, is about the same.

  • Hard to argue since regretfully, I have only been to one other stadium besides Sanford and J-ville. That was Neyland afew years back..and it was 103k strong as the Vols were draggin’ our ass that day. I will give the folks in Columbia props as well…I believe they played a huge part in the game last year where our boys just looked lost from the jump. I will argue this though…I have been to every state in the south and there ain’t nuthin sweeter than these GA Peaches in their boots and dresses. Believe that!

    • Then you didn’t look at the ladies in Mississippi. There is not another state in the union with more beautiful ladies than the state of Mississippi. This is from a Bama fan.

      • Gentleman, nothing compares to an orange sundress in Knoxville! Seriously tho, I think the girls are topnotch at any SEC school. There’s no way to compare.

  • While at Ole Miss, friends & traveled to many away games. I got to go an Ole Miss game at every SEC stadium except South Carolina & Florida. With the exception of Vanderbilt’s stadium, they’re actually all very nice & all very loud. Still, there truly is nothing like Tiger Stadium on a Saturday night. I’ve been to Baton Rouge twice to watch us play LSU & it is something…..especially when you’re wearing red. Neyland Stadium would be my second favorite. Looking out over the Tennessee River & the Smokies is beautiful. Again, every stadium in the SEC is pretty top-notch though.

  • I too have been lucky enough to visit almost all of the SEC stadiums (excluding Mizzou, South Carolina, and A&M). Baton Rouge is one of the most electric and chaotic environments that I have witnessed. Back in the late 90s and early 00s, Neyland was a rough place to be for a Bama fan. I really enjoy the Athens night life, but I wasn’t overwhelmed with the stadium noise compared to the others. Surprisingly, Mississippi State’s stadium had a unique loudness with the cowbells ringing (although they usually quiet down after halftime). The Ole Miss, Kentucky, and Vanderbilt just don’t have as many seats as the others. I’ve only been to Auburn’s for the Iron Bowl, but it has always been an experience (sometimes good, sometimes bad). Arkansas was alright but I’m just not a fan if hearing Woo Pig Sooie every 10 minutes. And the Swamp has lost it’s luster in the past few years. But nothing beats a Saturday night in Bryant Denny. Outside of the SEC, my favorite stadium experience was watching Army and Navy play in Philadelphia.

    • I actually haven’t been to Bryant-Denny since it expanded, so I’m sure it’s up there with Tiger Stadium now. I agree that ours just isn’t large enough to be too loud…..that, and our fans probably too drunk. We are bowling in the north endzone starting next year, & that will put us at 75,000 which is about right for our alumni base. On an aside, I got to go a Notre Dame game my sophomore year of college. While I certainly don’t pull for them, that was a magical campus & stadium. It also snowed the morning of the game, so that was cool too.

  • I have a hard time seeing kyle field in the top 5 being as ugly as that place is. Maybe after the expansion but right now I wouldn’t put it ahead of Williams-Brice Stadium.

  • The SEC is great for this very reason…every team can have a tradition to be proud of! WHat do yall think Spurrier & Gamecocks will do this year? http://wagmsworld.com/2013/08/20/sec-football-preview-2013-south-carolina-gamecocks/

    • I’d say 10-2. Loss at Georgia & either to either UF or Clemson. I’d lean towards Clemson, but Carolina seems to have owned Dabo & Co. lately.

  • Ranked Sanford above Neyland is a crime, but I understand it’s just an opinion article. The wrong opinion, but still an opinion.

    And it’s always funny how these lists seem to have the stadiums of the teams that are currently winning placed at the top. I think realistically when teams are at their best… Kyle Field, The Swamp, Tiger Stadium & Neyland Stadium are all interchangeable.

    • With all due respect, Neyland has been quiet as a mouse the last 3-4 years. Sure, it was loud for UF game last yr. Obviously the ranking reflects the here and now, and Neyland may not be top five anymore. The Swamp isn’t what it used to be either.

  • Been to all but UK and the 2 new boys & this is a good list. In actuality, there should be a space between #1 & #2 (or make that #1 and all the rest) as there is nothing like a game on Saturday night in Death Valley – except maybe 2 am in Harlem!! The only thing that’s not fair about LSU is the fan count cause I will NEVER go to a game there without wearing their colors – I value my life alot more than prideful fan support of my team! As for the rest, as some mentioned – #’s 2 through 9 can all be swapped around depending on game day opponent & rankings (except I’d switch Ark & USC and make that comment #2 – #8). I will say the USC / OM Thursday night game a few years back was incredible – thought the stadium might fall in that night! Loved (regretfully so) the comment about how loud the cowbells are…..until the second half. Give us a break guys, we’re trying!! MSU won’t move up the ranks with the new expansion (cause our entire athletic budget is less than some of these football budget alone), but the expansion is pretty cool AND you REALLY should have said 2 other things about MSU – it’s the second oldest on-campus stadium in the country (#1 Bobby Dodd – ex-SEC team) and you really should have mentioned the immense Video board (which I think is second only to U Tx). Enjoyable article – Thanks

    • Other than Vaught-Hemingway, I’ve been to more games in Starkville than anywhere else (at least a dozen games & not all of those were Egg Bowls). Those cowbells (as long as y’all are doing well in the game) are annoyingly loud. If this ranking were strictly how loud a stadium is, then I’d rank Davis-Wade Top 3 probably. Also, new stadium features will be nice. I can’t wait until we finish ours in a few years.

  • Overall I would put Bama’s stadium over LSU’s but for the last 10 years definitely Death Valley.

  • Faurot Field in Columbia Missouri will be moving up that list. The University approved a 200 million dollar athletic facilities upgrades back in 2012 and all the work is supposed to be done by football season start 2015. Faurot will have expanded seating of ~77,000 and the plans look great.

    Me and some college buddies are heading down to Commonwealth Stadium for the Mizzou – Kentucky football game. I am eager to see their stadium.

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