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It's time to bring the Super Bowl back to college stadiums

Profile Picture: Robert Criscola

February 11th, 2022

For 54 years, no NFL team had managed to play a Super Bowl in its own stadium. But now it is happening for the second straight season, with the Los Angeles Rams – ironically the designated road team – set to “visit” the Cincinnati Bengals at SoFi Stadium for Super Bowl LVI. The season before, it was the Tampa Bay Buccaneers hosting (and beating) the Kansas City Chiefs at Raymond James Stadium.

This is likely just a once in a generation thing, but what if the NFL could avoid the chance of this happening again altogether? We believe that bringing the Super Bowl back to college stadiums is just what the doctor ordered.

The NFL doesn’t spread the wealth location-wise

The NFL could not have predicted that the Bucs and Rams would “host” consecutive Super Bowls, as the venues are announced years in advance. In fact, we know where the next three editions of “The Big Game” will be played.

Future Super Bowl sites

Super Bowl (Year)Stadium Name (location)Host Team
LVII (2023)
State Farm Stadium (Glendale, AZ)
Arizona Cardinals
LVIII (2024)
Allegiant Stadium (Las Vegas)
Las Vegas Raiders
LIX (2025)
Caesars Superdome (New Orleans)
New Orleans Saints

As one can see, there is a bias toward the western part of the country, with the climate-controlled Superdome serving as an exception.

All the while, “cold weather” cities like Detroit and Minneapolis have gotten the short end of the stick. In fact, only six Super Bowls have ever been hosted by a “cold weather” city.

Super Bowls held in "cold weather" cities

Super Bowl (Year)Stadium Name (location)Host Team
XVI (1982)
Pontiac Silverdome (Pontiac, MI)
Detroit Lions
XXVI (1992)
Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome (Minneapolis)
Minnesota Vikings
XL (2006)
Ford Field (Detroit)
Detroit Lions
XLVI (2012)
Lucas Oil Stadium (Indianapolis)
Indianapolis Colts
XLVIII (2014)
MetLife Stadium (East Rutherford, NJ)
New York Giants/New York Jets
LII (2018)
U.S. Bank Stadium (Minneapolis)
Minnesota Vikings

This is patently unfair to about half the teams in the league. The Green Bay Packers, for example, have never hosted a Super Bowl at Lambeau Field, and probably never will.

How can the league make the process more fair?

Moving the Super Bowl to college stadiums looks like a win-win for both the league and the fans. The average ticket price for Super Bowl LVI is an absurdly-high $8,772, with the get-in price standing at around $4,900. For the average American, $4,900 represents over one month’s salary.

SoFi Stadium has a capacity of 70,000. But if the NFL picked a suitable college stadium for a future Super Bowl, they could potentially sell over 100,000 tickets.

“The Big House” in Ann Arbor, MI – the highest-capacity NCAAF stadium at 107,601 – is not likely to host the Super Bowl due to the weather. But Austin’s Texas Memorial Stadium – capacity 100,119 – very well could. Kyle Field in College Station, TX (capacity of 102,733) and Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, LA (102,321) are among the feasible alternatives.

The higher capacity could drive ticket prices down, but the NFL would still collect plenty of revenue at the gate from all the extra seats.

There is precedent for non-NFL stadiums hosting the Super Bowl

Part of the reason why no NFL team had hosted a Super Bowl for the first 54 years of its history is that some of those games were played at truly neutral sites.

In 1974, Super Bowl VIII occurred at Rice Stadium in Houston. The Oilers had played there before, but not since 1967. In 1985, Stanford Stadium in Palo Alto, CA played host to Super Bowl XIX. No NFL team had ever been a tenant at the home of the Stanford Cardinal.

The third and most famous example of a Super Bowl being held at a college venue is the Rose Bowl, which has seen five Super Bowls take place, the most recent one occurring in 1993. The iconic Pasadena, CA locale has never hosted an NFL team full-time.

Super Bowls held at the Rose Bowl

Super Bowl (Year)Final ScoreAttendance
XI (1977)
Oakland Raiders 32, Minnesota Vikings 14
103,438
XIV (1980)
Pittsburgh Steelers 31, Los Angeles Rams 19
103,985
XVII (1983)
Washington Redskins 27, Miami Dolphins 17
103,667
XXI (1987)
New York Giants 39, Denver Broncos 20
101,063
XXVII (1993)
Dallas Cowboys 52, Buffalo Bills 17
98,374

Conclusion

While it’s true that some college stadiums could potentially feel like a home game for some teams (Tiger Stadium is less than 100 miles from the New Orleans Saints’ Superdome, for example), a “home field advantage” would still be a rare occurrence. People that live in these college towns may also be afforded a chance they never had before to go see the big game, or at least take in some of the excitement from the build-up when the NFL sets up shop there.

Furthermore, both the league and the fans could still avoid cold weather by having the game in different parts of California, Texas, and Florida. It would be preferable to most parties to avoid a truly neutral rotation of NFL stadiums hosting the Super Bowl that would include cold-weather venues like Chicago, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and more.

It’s time for the NFL to give it the old college try again when planning future Super Bowls.

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