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Is Natural Grass Dying in College Football?

By Denise Valenzuela

Posted in

In today modern era technology is king.  Electronics, bio-tech or synthetic turf technology most of the world is utilizing the new breakthroughs.  The synthetic turf industry has seem immense changes and its growth has spread rampantly.  Here we look at synthetic turf field penetration for college football.  When BYU replaced the playing surface in LaVell Edwards Stadium prior to the 2009 season, it was the first complete surface overhaul at the school in 28 years. The apparent trend would have been to install an artificial turf, especially given the dry, desert climate that also experiences freezing temperatures. But the school installed a new grass field, and after a season to perfect it, the field is once again one of college football’s nicest surfaces.

It got me wondering how many stadiums still maintain a natural grass surface? While I set out to just get one total number, an amazingly-clear trend revealed itself.

For this simple study, I used the number of teams and conference alignments for the upcoming season.

The total number is still interesting, so let’s start there. The anecdotal truth I thought was true, is true. Artificial surfaces are the norm:

SURFACE # %
Artificial 82 65%
Grass 44 35%

Pretty simple, right? But when I organized those numbers by conference, it became clear that it’s ALL about money. I’m sure you’ve heard reasoning behind the installation of artificial surfaces from athletic directors — FieldTurf and other artificial surfaces are easier and less expensive to maintain. When given the “BCS” (ACC, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, Pac 12, SEC, with Independents included) versus “non-BCS” (the rest), it looks like this:

BCS Non-BCS
Artificial 47% 94%
Grass 53% 6%

Interestingly enough the Non-BCs schools tend to shy away from artificial turf fields.  Why would this be?  In the next post we take a deeper look into this breakdown to better understand the numbers.  After all most of the BCS schools that do use synthetic turf save tons of money on water use, maintenance etc.  Why wouldn’t the Non BCS schools follow suit?

 

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