By Chris Licata VERNON, Conn. – College football season is so close you can almost taste it. About six weeks from now all of...

By Chris Licata

VERNON, Conn. – College football season is so close you can almost taste it. About six weeks from now all of the pageantry, history and intensity that is the NCAA football season will explode onto the national spotlight.

No sporting event in America can compare to a Saturday afternoon college football game in the fall. The tailgating, screaming fans, crazy students and classic games all make the collegiate game an unforgettable experience – then of course there are the rivalries. Army-Navy, Florida-Florida State, Ohio State-Michigan, UCLA-USC and the list seemingly stretches on forever.

As great as college football is however, one can never really gain a true appreciation for the sport without being there. With 119 Division IA football teams, Americans nearly everywhere are guaranteed to be within range of the spectacle every Saturday this fall. Even in the Northeast, where our football is allegedly inferior to the rest of the nation, there are a number of great venues that can send Goosebumps up and down the spine of every red-blooded football fan. These are the top five Division IA college football stadiums in the New York, New Jersey and New England region. Ranking will be determined on a five-point scale that takes into account a number of different categories including quality of football (competitiveness of games), tailgating scene, traditions, stadium aesthetics and fan participation during games.

No. 5 – Rentschler Field, East Hartford, Conn. – 12 points

Home to the UConn Huskies, Rentschler Field opened up in the fall of 2003 and in three short years witnessed the Huskies go from an Division IA independent, to Big East member with nationally televised games and finally to bowl champions in 2004. Though the team will tell you every game is a 40,000 seat sellout, fan turnout on Saturdays is usually significantly less – especially if the team is struggling.

Quality of Football: 3

Tailgating Scene: 3

Traditions: 1

Stadium Aesthetics: 4

Fan Participation: 1

No. 4 – Rutgers Stadium, Piscataway, N.J. – 16 points

Last year the Scarlet Knights had a breakthrough season…finally. After making their first bowl game since 1978, Rutgers enters 2006 as a legitimate bowl threat. Although the team has been renowned for its inability to win and been a doormat for the better part of the last 15 years, the students and fans have always been loyal to the point that when the Scarlet Knights won only one game a few years back against Syracuse, fans still rushed the field and still tore down the goalposts.

Quality of Football: 3

Tailgating Scene: 3

Traditions: 2

Stadium Aesthetics: 4

Fan Participation: 4

No. 3 – Carrier Dome, Syracuse, N.Y. – 17 points

One of the most amazing venues in all of college football, Syracuse University’s Carrier Dome stands as a testament to the drawing power of a collegiate game. Home to former greats such as Jim Brown, Marvin Harrison and Donovan McNabb, Syracuse has had a lot to be proud of over the years. However, last year was not one of them. After going 1-10 and an embarrassing 0-7 in Big East play the Orange will do their best to rebound this season.

Quality of Football: 2

Tailgating Scene: 2

Traditions: 4

Stadium Aesthetics: 4

Fan Participation: 3

No. 2 – Alumni Stadium, Chestnut Hill, Mass. – 18 points

Though they are no longer in the Big East, Boston College will always be associated with northeast football. The Eagles seem trapped in NCAA purgatory right now. Yes, they have won five straight bowl games. But they have all been second or third tier games. They are good, but not getting better. Luckily rabid fans and a beautiful campus stadium make a BC game something everyone must enjoy.

Quality of Football: 4

Tailgating Scene: 3

Traditions: 3 (lose out for dropping Notre Dame from schedule)

Stadium Aesthetics: 4

Fan Participation: 4

No. 1 – Michie Stadium, West Point, N.Y, – 20 points

Ironically enough the best stadium in the northeast is not home to any BCS conference school. Michie Stadium opened in 1924 and has been home to some terrific Army football teams. The stadium has seen 27 undefeated Black Knight squads, seven straight undefeated seasons and a 42-game winning streak. Although Army has fallen on tough times recently, there is still very few college football stadiums that offer more than Michie.

Quality of Football: 2

Tailgating Scene: 4

Traditions: 5

Stadium Aesthetics: 4

Fan Participation: 5

Sean Burns Editor

Sean Burns is the editor of TicketNews.com. He has served as a reporter, editor and website administrator since the early 2000s. He holds a BA in journalism from Loyola University and a MA in Liberal Arts from Johns Hopkins. He can be reached via email at [email protected]