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Official Review by Bob Waldrop, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
When you think football in the state of Alabama your thoughts naturally gravitate toward the two behemoth stadiums the state has to offer – Alabama’s Bryant-Denny Stadium or Auburn’s Jordan-Hare Stadium, both of which are featured several times each season on CBS and/or ESPN. Birmingham’s Legion Field is also a once-proud venue that unfortunately now only hosts a few thousand fans per game as the home turf of the moribund UAB Blazers.
There is another option to the high prices and huge crowds that accompany SEC games, and it sits in an absolutely gorgeous setting on the campus of Samford University. Seibert Stadium was constructed in 1958, and has hosted every Bulldog home game ever since. While those more famous venues garner all of the attention, consider the history that lurks within the boundaries of Seibert Stadium. Pat Sullivan, the 1971 Heisman winner, has coached the Bulldogs since 2008. And none other than Robert Cleckler Bowden – aka Bobby – the NCAA’s all-time winningest Division 1 coach calls Samford (then known as Howard College) his alma mater, and began his legendary coaching career at the stadium that now features a statue of his likeness outside of the main entrance.
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Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
The food options at Seibert Stadium are somewhat limited, with only two main concession areas, one on either side of the stadium. The east entrance is mainly served by concession tents - similar to what you would see at a soccer tournament - offering bottled drinks, chips, candy, etc. The west stand houses the main concession area, where you can find other options, such as hot dogs ($2.50), sausages ($4), hot pretzels ($2.50), nachos ($3) or pre-made deli sandwiches ($4), in addition to chips, candy, peanuts, etc. Bottled water ($2) and fountain drinks ($2 regular/$4 for large souvenir Samford cup) are also available. Not having burgers, chicken sandwiches, chicken fingers or pizza available is disappointing, but the prices are more than reasonable.
The atmosphere on my visit to Seibert Stadium was fantastic. The Samford campus is beautiful, with rolling hills and hundreds of trees lining its walkways. The surrounding mountains offer a gorgeous backdrop, particularly in the fall when the trees are at their peak foliage (see photo gallery). The stadium itself sits down in a bowl, with grandstands on either sideline and hills forming a horseshoe around the north end zone. Many kids take advantage of the steeply-sloped hills by fashioning homemade sleds out of cardboard boxes or by using the placards handed out at the entrance.
Samford is a suburban university located approximately eight miles south of downtown Birmingham. The campus itself is beautiful, featuring many green areas and hundreds of mature trees and immaculate landscaping. It is quite hilly, with a significant elevation change from front to back. The campus is surrounded by upper middle-class houses and professional office complexes, but blends in naturally to the setting. Given this sort of land-locked feature, there aren't many off-campus activities available within walking distance.
The game I attended was Homecoming, and the home stands were filled, in addition to people ringing the top of the hill. There was an impressive student section, and Samford's band kept the crowd entertained during timeouts on the day I attended. Not all games are this well-attended, and it can be a struggle to attract large crowds, particularly when either Alabama or Auburn have a home game; however, on this day, both were on the road, allowing the locals and alumni to take advantage. There was also an impressive array of tailgating for an FCS school of Samford's size (enrollment is approximately 4,500 full time students).
Samford is easy to find, with its location on Lakeshore Drive, a busy east-west connector between I-65 and Highway 280, which are the two main traffic thoroughfares in and around Birmingham. There are only two entrances - east and west - to the main campus, with Seibert Stadium best accessed from the west entrance. Travel just past the guard shack and you can't miss the stadium directly in front of you. Parking is free (a nice bonus) but can be difficult to find, especially on special occasions such as Homecoming or Senior Day that usually draw larger crowds. The best advice is to simply wind your way around the campus until you come across a space. Any restricted areas will be roped off and you will see many cars parked in medians or on curbs, so take advantage if you dare. Parking across the street at the soccer stadium is also an option, leaving you less than a ten-minute walk to the stadium.
The price for my walk-up, General Admission ticket was $18 (cash or credit cards accepted), which was higher than I was expecting (for example, GA tickets for a 1st round FCS playoff game at Jacksonville State are only $10). However, the affordable concessions and free parking combined with a beautiful setting make attending a Samford game an affordable and enjoyable experience.
Extras are awarded for the statue of Bobby Bowden which was erected in 2013, although it is of a much younger Bowden than most of us are accustomed to, as well as for the hillside access which allows kids to be entertained while their parents watch. Also, any stadium that has prominent recycling bins in and around the arena gets an extra star from me.
If you're looking for the mammoth cathedrals that seem to signify the Division I arms race in today's college athletics, you won't find that environment at Samford - or any FCS stadium, for that matter. If, however, you are looking to take advantage of some terrific weather by being outside, enjoying some high quality college football in an absolutely beautiful setting, then a trip to Samford's Seibert Stadium should be on your to-do list.
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