The rumors have swirled for years, encircling Eugene like ambiguous High School gossip. The threat of another expansion at Autzen stadium — rumored to put capacity at a staggering 70,000 — is real, only aided by the unparalleled success the program has seen the past four years.
It begs the question, however, of how much is too much?
For the better part of a century, the Oregon football team toiled in mediocrity, interspersed with small bouts of success. Autzen, which has hosted Duck games since 1967, is charming in its small stature. For years Autzen housd just over 40,000 fans, one of the smallest in division-1 football. Often regarded as the loudest stadium per capacity in the country, Autzen’s reputation often outdid that of the home team. Oregon, a good program at this point, but one that relied heavily on its raucous home crowd to will them to victory.
However, after an expansion in 2002 upped the capacity to 54,000, many fans noticed a suttle change in atmosphere.
Gone was the gritty, dirty feel of the underdog, little-engne-that-could stadium. Sky boxes, suites, and a multi-million dollar jumbotron made the viewing experience more pleasurable, but also took a little of the charm — and noise — away from the Autzen we all knew.
Adding on to that is a huge risk, one the program cannot afford to take at this moment.
With the possibility of sanctions coming, the future is unknown. Fans in this state can be a little fickle, with so many options for their weekends. One 7-win season, and who’s to say they will all be there? Oregon had a hard time filling the seats this season, due to a weak home schedule, and the inevitable fact that Oregon was going to win most game buy 40+ points.
If they can barely sell out 54,000 in a 12-win season, how would 70,000 look in a down year? The appeal of a SEC-size stadium is appealing, and would certainly be special during certain games, but for the majority of the season, I simply don’t see the need.
Enjoy the smaller, intimate-stadium atmosphere. It’s part of Oregon’s charm, one that is being lost in the arms-race of college football.