Before I get to my visit to Delaware, first a little on the news that Maryland and Rutgers are heading to the Big Ten. The money over everything else idea irritates me to no end. As a traditionalist, I can’t tell you how much it bothers me to see the natural and geographical breakdowns of a conference be ruined by the fast cash grab, which is best exemplified by this latest series of events. It’s going to eventually ruin my favorite sport of college basketball as this sports bubble will eventually crash. Last year, I made up my fantasy conferences, a breakdown of where I thought everyone should be based on geography, rivalries and level of competition. Well this latest series of conference moves was the end for me and I am done following teams in those oddly arranged conferences, even my beloved Syracuse. I will still make a one-time stadium visit, but that will be it. Though the following conferences aren’t all that exempt, I’m going to restrict my following to the: America East, Big South, Horizon, Ivy, MAAC, Missouri Valley, NEC, Ohio Valley, Patriot, Southern and Southland.
OK, rant over. Now on to one of those teams in a conference I no longer choose to follow (CAA), Delaware! Hurricane Sandy postponed this visit a few weeks ago, but a home game this past Saturday fit with my schedule and the weather was excellent for November and some football. With the start not until 3:30 PM, I made the 2.5 hour drive early to spend some time around town and campus. UD is located in Newark. That’s New-ark, not to be confused with New Jersey’s largest city, which prefers to be pronounced as New-erk. Delaware’s Newark was a nice college town with a good mix of restaurants, bars and historic pubs. Lots of folks were buzzing about on the streets as I headed towards the edge of downtown for a quick lunch at the Deer Park Tavern. Campus merges right into the downtown area, which is a nice feature and I went for a walk after lunch…heading thru The Green, a tree-lined area of historic campus buildings. Newark doesn’t feature much in the way of attractions, though I did stop at the Mineralogical Museum. Don’t be fooled by the museum name, as the display is just a room inside one of the academic buildings. Still, a neat 20 minute detour with some literal eye-candy.
Getting to Delaware Stadium was easy and the parking/traffic wasn’t an issue either, which is a nice break from what is typically the toughest sport to deal with when it comes to driving and parking. The Blue Hens are one of the more storied FCS programs with many accolades, including a national championship game appearance just two years ago. It’s been a rough stretch this year however, as Delaware came in to their game against Villanova on a three game losing streak, with a record of 5-4. That did not deter the team’s many fans from coming out as they played to a nearly full 22,000-seat stadium in the season finale (paid attendance was 19,523). This is the most popular sporting event in the state and the fans support their team to a level that is near the top of FCS football. The atmosphere was just ok as the team didn’t do much to get the fans going with a 41-10 blowout. Though most of Villanova’s 41 points came in the 4th quarter, the Wildcats really dominated this game. However, I was very impressed with the huge UD Marching Band that brought the noise and entertainment. Well done.
As for the stadium, there wasn’t much to get excited about as the bulk of the seating came on the sidelines where bleachers extended from end zone to end zone and went up a full 42 rows (which was quite a calf-tiring hike from the bottom). End seating featured a few short bleachers, which allowed for views of the other athletic facilities within the complex. Also nearby was a farmhouse, which explains the occasional wafting of manure that I smelled. Where the stadium did impress was it’s scoreboard and the several spots where Delaware displayed team and football accomplishments. This included huge murals on the exterior of the facility that showed old pictures and a “Wall of Champions” banner. The detailed review (#130 Delaware Stadium) has been updated and all of the details can be found there. Overall, a good trip and if the weather allows, I’m hoping to return to Newark for a visit to the basketball team and the Bob Carpenter Center on December 4th as the Hens take on Radford.