by Matt Kupec
October 5, 2019
This past week I had the chance to visit Memorial Stadium on the University of Illinois campus for the first time. The Fighting Illini are not a power in the Big 10 and have not competed in many games of importance over the years but I have enjoyed seeing the occasional highlight from an Illini game on football TV shows.
When driving up to Memorial Stadium I was very impressive with the outside of the football stadium. Columns on the outer walls made me think of the Los Angeles Coliseum which is home to the USC Trojans. The inside of the stadium is somewhat of a different story with lots of concrete, field turf and a facility lacking in character. I do believe with some minor renovations it could be a pretty cool place to play. Ghosts of the late great Red Grange still run strong in the football environment.
Visiting Memorial Stadium made me think about the best football stadiums I have either been in as a player or a fan. Here is my top #10 list and the rationale behind my rankings:
#1. UCLA (Rose Bowl Stadium – 90,888 seating capacity)
I consider the Rose Bowl to be the best stadium in all of college football. I have seen three games there including the 2005 Texas win over USC to capture the national championship and 2009 National Championship games in which Texas fell to Alabama. I grew up loving to watch the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day when the major bowls still played their games on the same day to start the new year. I love the beautiful grass, the hills in the background, the circular stadium and history of the place.
#2. Notre Dame (Notre Dame Stadium – 77,662 seating capacity)
I grew up watching Notre Dame highlights on Sunday with Lindsay Nelson and Paul Horning providing commentary. Watching ND legends like Terry Hanratty, Jim Seymour and so many others filled my childhood dreams of being a football player. The gold helmets. The plain uniforms. No colors in the end zone but diagonal white stripes. And real and beautiful grass. The echo’s of Knute Rockne and Touchdown Jesus outside. A majestic place that, unfortunately, has been tainted by the installation of field tur. It is painful to watch ND on television these days. Shameful!
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About the Author
Matt Kupec is a fundraising professional with 32 years of significant higher education development experience. He has directed three major university fundraising campaigns and nearly $5 billion has been raised under his leadership. He has led the fundraising programs at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Hofstra University, Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute and HelpMeSee, a New York City based non-profit. He is currently serving as Senior In-House Fundraising Counsel for Southern Illinois University-Carbondale.
Matt is a former record-breaking four year starting quarterback for the UNC Tar Heels. During his career he set 19 season and career passing records. Two of which still stand — most consecutive games with a TD pass and most wins as a starting QB. Matt also set the ACC record for TD passes his senior year at UNC. Matt was named MVP of the 1977 Liberty Bowl and the 1979 Gator Bowl becoming the 1st player in Atlantic Coast Conference history to be named MVP of two bowl games.