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August 28, 2006

SCS.comThere are 119 Division I football stadiums. I plan on attending a game at all of them. So far, Iíve seen games at four of them. At a rate of five stadiums per year, I can visit them all in 23 years. By 2029, the project should be complete.

The idea to do this came to me in 2005 while I was living in Orlando, Florida. I was 650 miles away from my team, the Alabama Crimson Tide, and I was beginning to miss the experience of being in a stadium. In 2004, I was content to watch all of Alabamaís games on television and passed on the chance to see West Virginia play at UCF even though it was a mere 15 to 20 minute drive from my apartment.

By the fall of 2005, I made the decision that I would try to go to a game at every Division I stadium in the state of Florida. (There are seven.) I figured that if I couldnít attend games at my beloved Bryant-Denny Stadium, I might as well get out there and see what kind of experience the various stadiums of Florida offered.

I only made it to two stadiums in the 2005 season. I saw USF win the biggest game in the history of their program when they trounced Louisville 45-14. It was the biggest crowd to ever see a USF home game, and their fans certainly got a treat that night, winning their first ever Big East conference game.

The other game I went to was Memphis at UCF. The Golden Knights defeated UM 38-17, and it was a thrill to see DeAngelo Williams rush for 136 yards despite the loss. Later that year, I also went to the inaugural CUSA championship game, where Tulsa defeated UCF.

I found the experience of going to game where I didnít care who won pleasurable in its own way. Sure, it can never match the level of euphoria I experience when Alabama beats Auburn, Tennessee, or other SEC foes, but in a peculiar way, it is a more enjoyable experience.

I should clarify and say that it is more enjoyable from start to finish since thereís no stress, no serious emotional involvement, no fingernail chewing, etc. Like I said, the emotional payday at the end wasnít as satisfying, but I found myself really being a fan of the game. I could see things on the field more clearly. I found that I could really appreciate what was happening on both sides of the ball. Even if a Tennessee defender beautifully stuffs a run or defends a pass from Alabama, I canít appreciate that. It doesnít bring me joy; it frustrates me. Being a neutral fan, though, allowed me to enjoy the game for the sake of the game and not because of a particular result.

Additionally, I enjoyed seeing the various traditions different schools have on game day. If I had never attended a UCF game, I doubt I would have ever known that they fire a cannon after every score. I would never have met the valiant fans that suffered through a 17-game losing streak with their team that spanned three seasons. By the time I made it to their game against Memphis, UCF was 3-17 in their last 20 games, but the team still had their diehard fans that stuck it out with them. I gained an appreciation for the perspective of other fans.

Lastly, there are the stadiums themselves, the gigantic arenas where the modern day gladiators battle one another. There is an incredible variety of styles and capacities, and each of the ones Iíve been to have their unique charms. And Iím sure the remaining 115 do as well.

Thatís what Iím setting out to discover, the uniqueness of the game day experience all across the country. From the smurf turf of Bronco Stadium in Boise to the Big House in Ann Arbor, from Rentschler Field in East Hartford to the Orange Bowl in Miami, I plan on seeing them all.

I decided to expand the idea from visiting the stadiums in Florida to visiting all of the stadiums when I moved to Tuscaloosa, Alabama earlier this year. Even though I drive past Bryant-Denny Stadium every day now, I found that I still wanted to continue to attend games in other places. Thatís basically how the "Ultimate Football Project" was born.

The Project will begin this year on August 31st in Starkville, Mississippi when the Mississippi State Bulldogs host the South Carolina Gamecocks in a Thursday night showdown. Starkville is a mere 88 miles from Tuscaloosa, so it seemed like the ideal place to start.

On Saturday, September 2nd, I will attend Alabamaís opening game against the Hawaii Warriors. Though Iíve been to Bryant-Denny Stadium many times, Iíve held off on reviewing it for the Project since approximately 10,000 seats were added to BDS in the off-season. It is now one of the ten biggest football stadiums in the country, and the atmosphere should be electric on opening day.

I complete the weekend on Sunday, September 3rd in Oxford, Mississippi where the Rebels host rival Memphis. Itís going to be an exhausting day because Alabamaís Saturday kickoff is at 6PM, and the game in Oxford begins at 3:30 the next afternoon. Itís about a three and a half hour drive from Tuscaloosa to Oxford so I will have to hit the road early to enjoy game day in The Grove.

I have plans to attend games at four more stadiums during the 2006 season and also have my eye on two others as possibilities for this year. Hopefully readers will email suggestions of places for me to visit and things that are ďmust seesĒ on game day at their school. Better yet, I hope to meet a few of you along the way.

Stay tuned for updates on the adventure throughout the season. Weíre only a few days away from the start of the Project, and from the start of another season. I am ready for some football. How about you?

Read more about Joel's adventure over at

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