Neutral-site games in college football offer teams unique opportunities
Such games allow for fans outside of a team's standard market footprint to see their school live while (most of the time) not allowing the opponent a significant home-field advantage. These games can also present an opportunity for extra revenue streams through sponsorships, ticket and concession sales, and the sale of additional TV broadcast rights, depending on the type of game and venue.
As reported by the Deseret News' Jeff Call Tuesday, the BYU football team considers neutral-site games important to its scheduling strategy. Most modern neutral-site games take place in NFL stadiums — venues more than capable of providing fans a first-class experience as they cheer on their team.
Since BYU ventured into the independent football landscape, the ability to occasionally schedule games in neutral stadiums, enhanced by the clout of national cable network ESPN, has aided BYU's ability to find and play quality opponents on a national stage. Additionally, bowl games, played in neutral locations, regularly produce quality opponents and high-profile matchups.
BYU has played in several neutral-site games at NFL stadiums over the years.
Note: Several matchups between other universities and the Cougars were played in current and former NFL stadiums but cannot be considered neutral-site games because those venues also served as the home venue for BYU's opponent at the time. Those matchups were:
Oct. 2, 1976: 8-0 win vs. San Diego State at San Diego Stadium (San Diego Chargers)
Nov. 9, 1979: 31-17 win vs. Long Beach State at Anaheim Stadium (L.A. Rams)
Nov. 24, 1979: 63-14 win vs. San Diego State at San Diego Stadium (San Diego Chargers)
Sep. 5, 1981: 31-8 win vs. Long Beach State at Anaheim Stadium (L.A. Rams)
Oct. 17, 1981: 27-7 win vs. San Diego State at Jack Murphy Stadium (San Diego Chargers)
Oct. 22, 1983: 38-34 win vs. San Diego State at Jack Murphy Stadium (San Diego Chargers)
Nov. 29, 1986: 3-10 loss vs. San Diego State at Jack Murphy Stadium (San Diego Chargers)
Dec. 3, 1988: 41-17 loss vs. Miami in the Orange Bowl (Miami Dolphins)
Sep. 27, 1997: 19-16 win vs. SMU in the Cotton Bowl (Dallas Cowboys)
Oct. 11, 1997: 14-27 loss vs. Rice at Rice Stadium (Houston Oilers)
Sep. 12, 2009: 54-3 win vs. Tulane in the Louisiana Superdome
Here's a listing of all the neutral-site games BYU has played in NFL stadiums, beginning with Angel Stadium of Anaheim.
Formerly known simply as Anaheim Stadium, this venue is the current home to the L.A. Angels of Anaheim and the former home of the Los Angeles Rams. The stadium regularly is referred to locally as "The Big A."
In the late 1970s, the Los Angeles Rams moved to Anaheim Stadium from the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum because they had trouble filling the Coliseum and its 100,000 seats on even the best of days.
Throughout the 1970s and 80s, the Rams called Anaheim Stadium and its 40,000 seats home, but discontinued its use in 1994 when the franchise packed up and moved to St. Louis. No football games have since been played in the home of the L.A. Angels.
BYU's history with the stadium spans 12 years and five appearances, three of which were considered neutral-site games. The two other games were against Long Beach State University, which discontinued its football program in 1991.
BYU neutral-site games in Angel Stadium of Anaheim:
Dec. 30, 1986: UCLA (Freedom Bowl)
Dec. 29, 1988: Colorado (Freedom Bowl)
Aug. 29, 1991: Florida State (Pigskin Classic)
Rice Stadium, a lesser-known venue that housed the Houston Oilers from 1965 to 1967, is the home venue of the Rice University Owls football team.
Rice Stadium also housed the University of Houston Cougar football team from 1951 to 1965 and was the site of the first Super Bowl in Houston, Super Bowl VIII. Thirty years later, the Super Bowl returned to Houston, but was instead played in Reliant Stadium, the home of the Houston Texans.
As originally built, the stadium can seat nearly 70,000 spectators. Rice University, however, instituted seating reductions that have since reduced capacity to 50,000, largely mirroring the decline of the Rice University football program following the disbanding of the Southwestern Conference.
BYU's history in Rice Stadium is brief. During its time in the WAC, BYU played conference opponent Rice in Rice Stadium, losing 10-7 on LaVell Edwards' 67th birthday. BYU's only neutral-site game in the venue took place in 1979 against then-No. 14 Texas A&M, a game the Cougars won 18-17.
Neutral-site games played in Rice Stadium:
Sept. 8, 1979: Texas A&M
Giants Stadium was the former home of the New York Giants football team as well as the New York Jets.
The stadium was built in 1976 and housed the Giants until its demolition in 2010. The Jets moved into the stadium in 1984, preferring to call it "The Meadowlands." Both teams were co-tenants of Giants Stadium until the stadium's demolition.
Both the New York Giants and the Jets have since moved to the newly constructed MetLife stadium, Giants Stadium's replacement built adjacent to its former location at the Meadowlands Sports complex in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
BYU's history in the venue is very brief. It consists of the 1985 Kickoff Classic against Boston College, a game the Cougars, fresh off their 1984 National Championship, won 28-14.
Neutral-site games played in Giants Stadium:
Aug. 29, 1985: Boston College (Kickoff Classic)
The Cotton Bowl is one of the most storied venues in the history of college football. It is also locally known as "The house that Doak built," for Doak Walker, the legendary SMU running back that drew crowds of 40,000 to the venue in the 1940s. To this day, the Doak Walker Award annually honors the best running back in all of college football.
The Cotton Bowl Classic bowl game was played in the Cotton Bowl stadium from 1937 to 2009, but has since moved to Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The Cotton Bowl pits the No. 2 team in the Big XII — as long as that team is not participating in a BCS or College Football Playoff game — against a team from the Western Division of the Southeastern Conference.
The Cotton Bowl served as the home of the Dallas Cowboys for 12 seasons, from the team's inception in 1960 until 1971 when the Cowboys moved to Texas Stadium.
The venue has hosted numerous major sporting events from the 1994 FIFA World Cup to the annual Red River Rivalry game between the University of Texas and the University of Oklahoma. Located on the Texas State Fairgrounds, it also hosts Texas high school football semifinals and championships and has hosted some of the largest crowds to ever watch high school football games live.
BYU's history with the Cotton Bowl is brief, but is remembered fondly in the hearts and minds of Cougar fans. Steve Sarkisian led the 1996 Cougar football team to a win in the 1997 Cotton Bowl against Kansas State, giving the 1996 team more wins than any other in the history of the program for a single season at 14.
BYU returned to the Cotton Bowl for a regular-season game against SMU the following season, a game they won 19-16 in overtime.
Neutral-site games played in the Cotton Bowl:
Jan. 1, 1997: Kansas State
Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium is the home of the Memphis Tigers football team and the venue for the annual Liberty Bowl, a game that BYU has played twice.
The Liberty Bowl temporarily hosted the Tennessee Oilers following their move from Houston. When the Oilers left Texas, ownership announced that the Oilers would only stay in Memphis for two seasons until LP Field, the current home of the Tennessee Titans, was finished.
The announcement cooled enthusiasm for the NFL in the city as fans didn't want to become attached to a team they already knew would depart after two seasons. Following a season of miserable sales, the team moved to Nashville early, opting to play in Vanderbilt's Stadium until the completion of LP field.
BYU's history in Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium is one Cougar fans would like to forget. Following a second-place finish in the WAC in 1998, the Cougars fell apart against the Tulane Green Wave, finishing the season with a 9-5 record.
Even more bitter for Cougar fans was the 2001 season finale. BYU began the regular season that year 12-0, but the Cougars lost their final game of the regular season 72-45 at Hawaii and then lost to Louisville in the Liberty Bowl.
Neutral-site games played in Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium:
Dec. 31, 1998: Tulane
Dec. 31, 2001: Louisville
The Silverdome is best known as the former home of the Detroit Lions, who used the venue as their home field from 1975 to 2001.
Since the Lions moved to Ford Field in 2002, the Silverdome has fallen largely into disrepair and disuse, but over the course of its lifetime, it has seen several significant sporting events.
The Silverdome held the record for highest attendance at an indoor live event in North America (93,173) when it hosted WrestleMania III in 1987. That record was subsequently broken in 2010 at the NBA All-Star Game at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
The venue also played host to several opening-round games of the 1994 FIFA World Cup and also played host to a friendly soccer match between Italian powerhouse AC Milan and Greek powerhouse Panathinaikos. The match was billed as the "Match of the Titans."
BYU's history in the Silverdome comprises one game, a 1999 tilt in the Motor City Bowl, which the Cougars lost.
Neutral-site games played at the Pontiac Silverdome:
Dec. 27, 1999: Marshall
EverBank Field has been the home of the Jacksonville Jaguars since the city of Jacksonville, Fla., was awarded expansion rights for the NFL's 30th franchise, though it has not always been called EverBank Field. The venue was formerly known as Jacksonvilee Municipal Stadium and Alltel Stadium.
Built on the location of the original Gator Bowl stadium and erected in 1995, the venue also serves as the site of the Gator Bowl college football bowl game and the annual Florida-Georgia rivalry game. When the Citrus Bowl made a play to convince the universities of Florida and Georgia to relocate following the 1994 season, the Gator Bowl and the city of Jacksonville announced renovations to the venue and convinced the two schools to stay.
During the renovation process, the city of Jacksonville decided to make a play for a professional team, and after more than doubling the cost of renovations to the venue, the NFL awarded expansion rights.
BYU's history in what was then called Alltel Stadium consists of one game: the 2000 Pigskin Classic against Florida State, a game the Cougars lost.
Neutral-site games played at EverBank Field:
Aug. 26, 2000: Florida State
Cowboys Stadium is one of the most recognized modern venues in American professional sports, both for the teams it has hosted as well as for the cost of construction ($1.15 billion). It serves as the home of the Dallas Cowboys — they moved there following the 2008 football season — and also serves as the current home of the Cotton Bowl Classic and a number of other annual professional and collegiate sporting events.
Cowboys Stadium is perhaps best known for its massive HD video-board display, a screen that spans 60 yards, from 20-yard line to 20-yard line. The venue's seated capacity is more than 80,000, though its total capacity, including standing-room-only tickets, is more than 100,000.
BYU's history in the venue got off to an unforgettable start. The Cougars defeated then No. 3 Oklahoma in the opening game of the 2009 football season. Current St. Louis Rams starter and 2008 Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford suffered a severe shoulder injury in the game, sidelining him for the rest of the 2009 season.
In 2011, following BYU's declaration of football independence, BYU returned to Cowboys stadium and suffered a difficult 38-28 loss against former conference rival TCU.
Neutral-site games played at Cowboys Stadium:
Sep. 5, 2009: Oklahoma
Oct. 28, 2011: TCU
Qualcomm Stadium, formerly known as Jack Murphy Stadium and San Diego Stadium, is a multipurpose, general-use stadium in San Diego and serves as the home venue for the San Diego Chargers and the San Diego State Aztecs football team. It also was the home venue for the San Diego Padres of Major League Baseball until 2003. The stadium has also hosted the Holiday Bowl since 1978 and the Poinsettia Bowl since 2005.
Qualcomm Stadium holds the distinction of being the only stadium to ever host a Super Bowl and a World Series in the same year (1998). It is also one of three stadiums to host the World Series, MLB All-Star game and Super Bowl.
Qualcomm Stadium is practically BYU's neutral-site home field. The Cougars have played more neutral-site games in Qualcomm than in any other NFL venue, principally because of seven consecutive Holiday Bowl appearances from 1978 — the bowl's first year of existence — to 1984. BYU most recently returned to Qualcomm in 2012 to play former conference rival San Diego State in the Poinsettia Bowl. Despite the fact that San Diego State uses Qualcomm as its home stadium, the 2012 Poinsettia Bowl was a neutral-site game because of the game's bowl status.
BYU has also played many regular-season games at Qualcomm Stadium against San Diego State. The Aztecs and the Cougars broke conference affiliation in 2011 when the Cougars declared their football independence, ending a home-and-home series that lasted the length of BYU's membership in the Mountain West as well as a significant portion of BYU's WAC membership.
Some of the most memorable moments in BYU football history have taken place at Qualcomm Stadium, including the "Miracle Bowl" in 1980 and the win over Michigan that sealed BYU's 1984 national championship.
Neutral-site games played at Qualcomm Stadium:
Dec. 22, 1978: Navy
Dec. 21, 1979: Indiana
Dec. 19, 1980: SMU (The Miracle Bowl)
Dec. 18, 1981: Washington State
Dec. 17, 1982: Ohio State
Dec. 23, 1983: Missouri
Dec. 21, 1984: Michigan (National Championship)
Dec. 29, 1989: Penn State
Dec. 29, 1990: Texas A&M
Dec. 30, 1991: Iowa
Dec. 30, 1993: Ohio State
Dec. 20, 2012: San Diego State