The Open Man countdowns to the 2018 college football season with 129 — in honor of the 129 programs participating in the Football Bowl Subdivision this year — things we love (and some we hate) about the sport. Click the 129 Things tag to see every entry.
What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you see this?
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If you answered Notre Dame football, you suffer from the same college football-induced derangement as I.
Nice equidistant slashes appear in each end zone at Notre Dame Stadium; a subtle albeit iconic touch that gives the Fighting Irish’s home field its identity. Spend a quarter-century with Notre Dame on NBC, and those slashes become a permanent fixture in ones memory.
Burrowing into the viewers’ psyche is the whole idea, just as with any work of art. And beautiful college football fields are art.
Just look at the midfield logo that graces the grass at East Carolina’s Dowdy–Ficklen Stadium, pictured above. The craftsmanship necessary to place the Pirates’ skull so perfectly within the outline of the state of North Carolina is awe-inspiring.
Field designs contribute to the aura and mystique of a football program in much the same way as uniforms. The look of a university’s football field can be a greater identifier than a uniform or logo, even. Consider Tennessee.
Tennessee’s orange-and-white uniforms rank among the most identifiable threads in the sport, but that hasn’t stopped the Vols from wearing black or smoky gray. Similarly, the Power T logo that graces the sides of Tennessee helmets has shared the stage with various incarnations of The Rifleman, including a “Star Vols” logo that the university prominently displayed throughout the early 1990s.
But Neyland Stadium’s checkerboard end zone has gone untouched since its reinstatement in 1989. Almost three decades of that aesthetically pleasing, orange-and-white pattern emanating into homes across the country has given Tennessee football an immediately distinguishable symbol.
Likewise, Boise State’s Smurf Turf — which celebrated its 30th birthday in 2016 — is the most iconic identifier associated with Broncos football. The blue turf arguably helped facilitate the program’s rise in the 2000s, planting the thought of Boise State football into the minds of national media and recruits alike.
The Smurf Turf has even been argued to give Boise State an on-field advantage, prompting the Mountain West Conference to initially bar the Broncos from wearing all-blue for home league games (that ban’s since been lifted).
Boise State and the blue field are synonymous with one another, and BSU ensures it will remain that way. The university’s trademark on non-green football field turf has made so any other program seeking to adopt its own unique look must go through Boise State. Thus, the Division I programs with uniquely painted fields make for an exclusive club.
In the Football Championship Subdivision, there’s Central Arkansas with its purple-and-silver stripes:
Not far from Boise State, Eastern Washington’s “Inferno” might be the most divisive.
Did anybody else try to fix their tint trying to watch this Eastern Washington game???!!!! pic.twitter.com/JdQiekaE8K
— ANTHONY ADAMS (@spiceadams) August 23, 2014
Recent FBS newcomer Coastal Carolina prepped for its move up with the installation of teal turf. It’s no weirder than hosting filming for Season 3 of Eastbound and Down:
Eastern Michigan’s gray turf symbolizes more than the university, or the workmanlike identity Chris Creighton preached upon accepting the task of rebuilding one of college football’s most downtrodden programs. “The Factory” is an avatar for the identity of the Rust Belt itself.
College football fields need not have any special coloration to be special, though. Sometimes a few slashes placed meticulously in an end zone can become iconic.