Oklahoma football stadium one of biggest in Big 12, just average size in SEC


The Oklahoma football fan base is one of the largest in college football and for good reason, given the brand's blueblood status and historic success on the gridiron.

Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium has been filled to capacity --even overcapacity -- every game for many seasons. Every Oklahoma home football game has been sold out since the beginning of the 1999 season -- 152 consecutive sellouts in total -- not surprisingly in line with Bob Stoops' first season as head coach of the Sooners.

We all know about the famous line from the popular motion picture "Field of Dreams" -- "If we build it, they will come." At Oklahoma, that line could be reconstructed to read: If we win and keep winning, they will come and keep coming. And winning football teams at Oklahoma has never been a problem, especially since 1950 or for nearly three-quarters of a century. The Sooners' 944 wins ranks sixth all-time in college football history, and since Bud Wilkinson became head coach in 1949, no school has more wins than Oklahoma.

OU Memorial Stadium was first opened in 1923. It has undergone many changes since then, the most recent of which were major renovations on the south end of the stadium to enclose it and add more fan conveniences.

Oklahoma's stadium size (83,000 stadium capacity) ranked second in the Big 12 and Stadium Talk earlier this year ranked the Palace on the Prairie as the 16th best venue in college football. NCAA.com ranks OU Memorial Stadium as the 13th biggest college venue.

The universal reputation of the SEC as the best conference in college football -- well earned by the way by its top-to-bottom performance on the field -- is in direct proportion to the size and national standing of the facilities where the best teams in that league go to battle. A winning product and consistency on the field fuels a growing fan base and ultimately a venue that supports that interest.

The Sooners have always had a strong, passionate fan base in football, among the country's best, but they are about to join a conference where football is an absolute religion and stadium size matches that interest.

Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium may be the 13th largest college stadium among FBS-level teams, but it is only the 9th largest in the SEC. The average stadium size of the 14 incumbent SEC members is 80,262. Four SEC schools have stadiums that hold more than 100,000, led by Kyle Field, which holds 102,733. Tennessee is next at 102,455, LSU 102,321 and Alabama 101,821. Texas becomes the fifth SEC team with a capacity greater than 100,000. Darrel K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium would be No. 5 on the list with a 100,119 capacity.

Georgia's Sanford Stadium (92,746), Ben Hill Griffin Stadium at Florida (88,548) and Auburn's Jordan-Hare Stadium (87,451) also rank ahead of Oklahoma.

It's reasonable to assume that we will see additional renovations and upgrades at OU Memorial Stadium in the years to come. The capital improvements master plan revealed in 2014 called for $350 million in improvements, but that was cut back to $160 million a year later because of economic conditions at the time. It's obvious OU doesn't have any trouble selling tickets or filling seats at its present stadium size, but the environment the Sooners are entering is sure to increase fan interest, national exposure and along with it all-important revenue share.

You can do the math.