Renovating rather than building new has been the college football stadium way in the 21st century. Some 29 stadiums in use today by Football Bowl Subdivision programs were built in the 1920s compared to 15 since 2000.
So it was with Oklahoma, looking to update Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman. But although the Sooners’ ambitions were similar to others when it came to improvements and additional amenities, there was something different about the first phase of the project, designed by Kansas City-based Populous and rolled out this season.
Oklahoma added atmosphere by enclosing the south end zone — the decibel-level should reach jet engine levels for Saturday’s game against Ohio State — without adding seats. Or at least many seats.
Capacity increased by about 1,300 to 83,421. They’re premium seats with access to indoor lounges and preferred parking.
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“They weren’t interested in making improvements to get to 90,000 or 100,000,” said Denver Finlinson, a senior associate at Populous who oversaw the project. “They wanted to make the best project they could for the 85,000 or so who come to every game.”
Oklahoma studied the landscape and the marketplace. It saw a state that is growing but not booming — a 4.3 percent population increase over the past five years — and understood the forces that vie for fans’ attention and income.
“We have much more competition than we did 20, 15 or even 10 years ago,” Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione said. “The quality of the experience became more important than increasing the seating capacity.”
Saturday’s crowd is expected to swell beyond capacity. The game matches two of college football’s top brands, and the stakes are especially high for the Sooners, whose opening-game loss to Houston puts them in nearly a must-win-out position to repeat its College Football Playoff semifinals season.
No telling how large a stadium Oklahoma could fill for this game, and the Sooners play enough attractive opponents — UCLA, Nebraska, Michigan and LSU are on future schedules — to keep demand ahead of supply.
Castiglione wants to keep it that way.
“You can’t replicate the game-day experience, and we’ve tried to make it so you have to be here,” Castiglione said.
Appalachian State over Miami, Fla.
Why are the Hurricanes the first power five team to visit Boone, N.C.? They had a late scheduling need and agreed to a home-and-home. The Mountaineers played Tennessee tough two weeks ago. Home field could allow them to finish this task.
Others to watch
Oregon at Nebraska
Mike Riley got off to a good start as head coach of Oregon State in the Civil War rivalry with Oregon. In his first tenure with the Beavers, 1997-1998, the teams split games.
When Riley returned after three years in the NFL, Oregon State won three of the first five meetings, then lost the next seven, the final one in 2014 by four touchdowns.
Nebraska came calling a few days later and Riley took the job, with the Ducks looming on the schedule. The Cornhuskers play host to Oregon on Saturday.
“Somebody told me right after (the hire),” Riley said. “We didn’t fare that well in the many years with them but it was a great rivalry.”
Riley called his move to Nebraska “a shot at a new, great adventure.” But there will no doubt be an additional layer of satisfaction if the Cornhuskers, coming off a 52-17 victory over Wyoming to improve to 2-0, can take down the Ducks.
Does this feel like a level playing field to Riley?
“Yeah, I believe that there is,” he said.
At Oregon State?
“Well, it was hard, there’s no doubt about it.”
Alabama at Mississippi
Hugh Freeze looks to become the first SEC coach to defeat Nick Saban three straight years. It happened only twice when Saban was in the Big Ten, by Purdue’s Joe Tiller and Michigan’s Lloyd Carr.
Florida State at Louisville
The Lamar Jackson hype will soar if the Louisville quarterback can take down the Seminoles. He has accounted for 13 touchdowns this season. Last week against Syracuse, Jackson passed for 411 yards and rushed for 199. But he hasn’t seen a defense as fast as Florida State’s.
Video of the week
Washington State’s Mike Leach disparages junior college softball teams in ripping his squad.