This is an outstanding piece on the centrality of college football stadiums to America’s small and mid-sized towns. Part shrines, part athletic endeavors, they are economic engines and edifices of social bonding in ways that simply do not exist in most pro venues — indeed, they cannot exist, owing to their suburban nature.
Everyone in Tuscaloosa or Athens or Columbia or College Station knows where “the stadium” is, knows where to park, knows hidey holes and tailgates and dive bars and other hidden gems.
It’s unique. It’s special. And with the game’s taskmasters attempting to turn the sport into a paraprofessional league, it’s a visceral reminder of how vital the campus stadium is to the university and surrounding area.
I hope we never lose that.
Most SEC stadiums trace their lineage back to the earliest eras of U.S. sport—only Kentucky’s Kroger Field was constructed after 1940. These were periods when these aforementioned urbanist traits were nonnegotiables for stadium design and city life more generally. Stadiums needed to be accessible by foot or by public transport and quickly became extensions of their surrounding neighborhoods, best exemplified by the iconic jewel box ballparks that once dotted the downtowns of major U.S. cities.
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“College football promotes urbanism and promotes pedestrian social behavior in ways that almost no other activities do,” says Tim Chapin, dean of the College of Social Sciences and Public Policy at Florida State. “That’s true both on a university campus and I’d say in society generally.”
With a majority of fans commuting from across the largely rural South, cars are the primary mode of transportation on game days. But while most professional stadiums feature desolate swaths of surface parking, SEC drivers generally find parking much farther removed and experience the atmosphere on foot.
“For SEC games you’re parking on a far side of campus and you’re not necessarily unhappy about that,” Kellison says. “You probably have strong bonds, not just to the stadium or the team, but also to the infrastructure, buildings, quads or the ovals that you can either retrace your steps on or introduce to your kids
“It’s a hypersocial experience,” Chapin says. “Eighty-thousand people come and sort of have one big party, not just inside the stadium but outside of it. There’s a really neat sort of celebration of football as a means of bringing us back together and how good design matters in that.”
Quarterbacking makes the game, and going into next season, the SEC is facing a very precarious situation — three teams in the Top 10 lose their signal caller with no clear heir apparent waiting in the wings.
That says nothing of teams like Kentucky, who hit the portal for NCSU’s Devin Leary (and we have seen several transfers struggle with the SEC); nor Auburn, where about seven guys are in contention with a brand new coaching staff; nor Florida, a team that has lost two blue-chippers in 13 days, and lost AR15 to the NFL draft.
Is there one left who scares you? Anyone on the Aggie roster? Mizzou? Jaxson Dart? Jayden Daniels? Spencer Rattler? Will Rogers?
If the league takes a hit early, it’s going to be based on what’s under center…but mostly what’s not
And though Alabama doesn’t lose a whole lot to the draft this year in sheer terms of numbers, who they lost matters far more: QB1, RB1, Star, Mike, LG, FS. That means the Tide — once again — were hit more consequentially by early departures than anyone else in the nation.
As college football’s top NFL factory, Alabama will always rank near the top of these lists. Still, the 2023 class is a massive blow, even by Crimson Tide standards. Heisman-winning quarterback Bryce Young and national defensive player of the year Will Anderson represent one of the best pairings that Nick Saban has ever had on a single team as both project to be top-three picks. Safety Brian Branch and running back Jahmyr Gibbs were also major contributors. Mixing the losses with graduations of starters like Emil Ekiyor, Henry To’oTo’o and Jordan Battle makes this one of the biggest exoduses of talent in the Saban era.
At many positions, Alabama has answers (and don’t overlook, for instance, the impact of the 2023 NSD class. There are studs at every position, particularly at edge). Other spots, however, leave gaping holes on the roster and several questions.
Lookie, lookie who’s No. 1 in ESPN’s College Baskeball power poll:
While some teams around the country have struggled since the start of conference play, that hasn’t been the case for Nate Oats’ club. The Crimson Tide have won their five SEC games by an average of 22.8 points. Winning by 15 at Arkansas — which has what is considered one of the best home-court environments in the SEC, if not all of college basketball — shouldn’t be overlooked, despite the Razorbacks’ recent struggles. Then Bama went out and absolutely demolished LSU by 40 on Saturday, scoring 1.46 points per possession, making 20 3-pointers and dropping 106 on the Tigers. The Crimson Tide are absolutely rolling.
It was a fairly light week for Team of the Week contenders. Xavier, Texas and Illinois had a solid couple of wins, while NC State posted a great victory over Miami. But I’m not sure there’s a better team in college basketball right now than Alabama.
AL.com did an interesting listicle: “25 moments we won’t forget from 2022.”
Good thing Aye Ell doesn’t have a comment section anymore. LOL.
Me? I’ll always remember Bill O’Brien shitting the bed in Austin, Oxford, Baton Rouge, against Aggie — and Pete Golding telling him to hold his beer in Knoxville.
But I am trying to put my finger on a high point of the season. Here are a few for me:
- The Sugar Bowl, where everyone clicking, aggressive, motivated. A glimpse at what could have been.
- Will Anderson finally getting his first touchdown.
- Brian Branch and Byron Young making hella’ money every time they stepped on the field.
- The quiet domination of Kool-Aid McKinstry.
- The sheer joy of watching Jahmyr Gibbs, and especially when he found another gear.
- Terrion Arnold having a career game vs. A&M with the target on his back.
- Bryce Young’s final three quarters in Knoxville.
So, there will be no poll today, but that’s going to be our discussion question. And I’m genuinely interested in the answers.
Finally, we have a standalone piece on Bill O’Brien and associates rumors coming up shortly. Don’t fret; we didn’t omit it