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Wednesday, November 11, 2009
The meaning behind Memorial stadiums

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

I grew to love college football while attending games at Memorial Stadium in Berkeley, Calif. I've spent part of my professional career covering games at Memorial stadiums in Champaign, Ill., and Bloomington, Ind.

No matter where you live, Memorial stadiums are an integral part of college football. There are 15 such venues in the FBS, including two in the Big Ten at Illinois and Indiana. On this Veterans Day, colleague Ivan Maisel looked at what's behind these stadiums which honor the nation's servicemen and servicewomen. There's a lot more to these facilities than the Memorial Stadium name, and in a time when stadiums are named after pizza chains and video stores, this piece is certainly worth reading.

Maisel spends much of the piece focusing on Illinois' Memorial Stadium, which opened in 1923.

The initial grand plans dreamt up by Illinois athletic director George Huff and coach Bob Zuppke included memorial plazas on each side of the stadium flanked by towers with a campanile in front and 75,000 seats. The towers should be so high, Zuppke said, that a spotlight atop them "will illuminate the name of Illinois from the Statue of Liberty to the Golden Gate."

Such plans would cost $2.5 million to execute. Financial reality reduced those plans to what $1.7 million could buy: 57,000 seats and the stately 22-foot columns that endure to this day.

On nearly every column is the name of an Illini alumnus who perished in the war. There are a few exceptions: One memorializes the Student Army Training Corps; one, the Student Navy Training Corps; and another, the unknown soldier.

There's also an account of the dedication ceremony in 1924 and Red Grange's incredible performance the next day. So give it a read.