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BCS VS. Non-BCS College Football Field Make-up

By Denise Valenzuela

Posted in

In the previous article we looked at the College football industry and if artificail grass was overtaking traditional grass feilds.  For the most part the easy answer to this is YES! they are.  But interestingly it seems the non BCS teams shy away from the great fake grass.  Yes, 94% of non-BCS schools use artificial turf, while only 47% of BCS schools do. That 6% of non-BCSers with grass is just three schools: East Carolina, Florida Atlantic, and New Mexico State.

If you were to split the four Independents into the two with the most money (Notre Dame, BYU) and the two with the least (Army, Navy), it still holds: Notre Dame and BYU have grass, Army and Navy don’t.

Broken into conferences, you’ll see how geography starts to come into play — at least for the schools with money:

CONFERENCE % of Grass
SEC 79%
ACC 71%
Pac 12 42%*
Independents 50%
Big East 42%
Big Ten 33%
Big 12 30%
Sun Belt 10%
C-USA 8%
MWC 0%
MAC 0%

It seems pretty simple: schools with money and a moist climate usually have grass. Schools with money and arid climates (Big 12) or cold climates (Big Ten) gravitate towards artificial surfaces but generally have both, and schools with little money almost always have an artificial surface. This means that in the pre-2011 Mountain West, BYU, TCU, and New Mexico were oddities.

Of note, the Mountain West would have had two schools with grass — Fresno State and New Mexico — but Fresno installed artificial turf last season, and New Mexico is laying down the synthetic stuff as you read this.

Simply put, grass costs money. A school has to pay to water it, to paint it, and for a staff to care for it. Grass fields are usually painted once a week during the season. Artificial surfaces require no water, can be painted once every two or three years, and would only require staff enough to clean off some occasional debris, which can probably be covered by staff already employed to clean the stadium, since no expertise is required.

As more schools face the need to replace their fields, it will be interesting to see if more choose synthetic surfaces, or if schools with money will choose to maintain grass fields.

Some other items I thought were interested regarding geography with which to send you away:

Schools with cold climates (freezing temps and snow are normal) who still have grass:
BYU
Colorado*
Connecticut
Michigan State
Notre Dame
Northwestern
Penn State
Pitt (NFL stadium)
Purdue

Schools with money and favorable climates who still have artificial turf:
Cal
Maryland
Mississippi
Missouri
Oregon
Oregon State
Vanderbilt (going in this season)
Wake Forest
Washington

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