November 23, 2019
Brown Bears vs Dartmouth Big Green
Final Score: 23 – 29
On a seasonably cold day, Brown Stadium was the site of my 8th and final Ivy League visit, completing the circuit in fine fashion with the League championship on the line. Brown University was founded in the 1700s and though it’s not the first school that comes to mind when thinking “Ivy”, the list of achievements, academic advancements and noteworthy attendees makes this private school highly regarded. The athletic program is far from highly regarded though and that includes the football team. They are 6th in the conference in terms of League Championships as they only have four, their last coming in 2008. It’s been six seasons since the Bears have had a winning record. Brown Stadium was built in 1925 and very little has changed with this historic facility. The school is located in Providence, the capital of the Ocean State. This city of 180,000 experienced a wonderful “renaissance” over the last few decades that turned it around and I found it to be a great place to visit.
Prestige Ranking: 2.5 out of 5
Brown’s campus is in College Hill, a neighborhood just to the east of downtown Providence, on the other side of the River. Those checking out the State House, Waterplace Park or other downtown sights can make it over on foot if one is an ambitious walker and fond of elevation. College Hill is a great area comprised of tree-lines streets and historic homes (some available for tour). Thayer Street has a nice mix of bars, stores and restaurants that vary between unique to the area and ubiquitous to colleges across the country. The actual campus for Brown blends in well with the historic neighborhood and the diversity of the buildings surrounding the main green is quite pleasant. Brown Stadium is still on the East Side, but nowhere near the core part of College Hill as it lies one mile to the north, in an area surrounded by houses and a Jewish community. Nice area to live, but it lacks anything for visitors.
Location Ranking: 6 out of 10
Accessibility / Parking
There is decent highway availability from most areas as I-95 is the main access road and other country roads connect to Worcester and Hartford. While College Hill and Campus can be challenging to drive as there are several city streets (many of them hilly), the football stadium is easy to get to via Exit 24 from I-95 as it is a quick shot down Cypress Street. Parking however, is horrible as the small Lot A is expensive and taken up by Alums. There is no other parking, so most are confined to parking on the road. Thankfully, there are many neighborhood streets around for this and low attendance means it typically isn’t an issue to get a spot. Leaving the game, there were some stoplight backups before reaching I-95, which was sluggish.
Accessibility / Parking Ranking: 4.5 out of 8
The flat, concrete back of the home side stands provide a cold introduction to this tall structure. There are things though that make it stand out, like the gold and maroon ornate “B” logos near the top and the carving of a Bear head in the top corners, both original to the 1925 design. Very large archways lead into the stadium and achievement banners cover three of them. You can see another side of this trapezoid shape exterior as the concrete slopes downward to ground level.
Exterior Ranking: 5 out of 10
Concourse and Food
Underneath the large stands, is a concourse that is full of support beams and drab gray nearly everywhere. It’s a space with obstructions galore and one that is good for a stadium of 5,000, not 20,000. Concession tables are plopped in the middle and don’t expect anything special as options include Pizza, Hot Dogs, Burgers, Sausage, Chicken Fingers and Fries. There is no beer available and Coca-Cola is the soda provider. Lines can get long at times, but workers manning the grill are very pleasant. Going back to the limited space, the bathrooms are an even worse display. Men get just one area and they are either using a trough or going into one of just two stalls. Getting around to the visitor’s sideline is a pain as you have to take a long ramp along the outskirts of the stadium (you can’t even see the field as shrubs block the view). The walkway behind the visitor’s side is uncovered before going through an entrance hole to the seating. It’s a more interesting design here, resembling a cabin. You’re out of luck if you want to walk around the southeast end as security blocks that off.
Concourse Ranking: 1 out of 5
Food Ranking: 2.5 out of 8
Most of the seating is on the southwest sideline as the trapezoid-shaped stands go up 72 rows to the top, making for a tiring climb from the bottom concourse entrance if anyone wants a panoramic view. The back-less aluminum benches are what you would expect from a comfort standpoint and the space between each row is average at best. The field view is ok as each row goes up at a standard increment, however diminishing the sightlines is a running track and the seats beginning at ground-level. A press box can be found at the top of this seating area and the wall features a “Brown” wordmark, which is above a subtle dark “B” colored into the seats below. Wheelchair seating is found at the bottom of the bowl and for anyone shaky with steps, climb with caution because there are no railings and the side steps near the wall rise at a discombobulating angle. Over on the other sideline is a much smaller set of bleachers that extends to each 20-yard line. This area is a lot less ideal to watch the game as the smaller pitch leads to worse sightlines, plus you have to stare into the sun. Shrubs and pine trees can be found at varying points around the stadium. While pleasant, pine trees placed near the visitor stands make it impossible to see the scoreboard.
Interior Ranking: 5.5 out of 14
Only one end has a scoreboard and because of the track, it is set way back from the field. Overall it looks good with a brown base, top header saying “Brown Stadium” and a video screen that comprises most of the board. The problem is the screen is just too small and far away. Simulcasting the ESPN+ feed is great, but I could never make out the football during replays. The digital information at the bottom is adequate.
Scoreboard Ranking: 2.5 out of 4
I like how the face of the exterior has some unique touches to Brown and how the banners provide a nice introduction to the program by listing the years of Ivy League Championships and those that won Player of the Year. More player banners hang in the concourse, though some descriptions are vague: “NCAA Record Holder”. What record do they hold? Ivy League Championship teams get more recognition inside as the flags for each title year fly above the main stands, while on the other side, visiting fans get to look at team pictures from those years. Perhaps my favorite display comes near the entrance, where a dedication plaque lovingly shows its age as it has rusted down to a sea green color. You can still read the inscription and the way sentences were written in the 1920s makes for a fascinating quick read.
Displays Ranking: 3.5 out of 6
The $25 parking charge is ridiculous, but I guess when you have so few spaces, you can do that. Because street parking is plentiful, I can let that parking cost slide a little bit. Tickets are $10 – $15 and that is very similar to other Ivy teams. Programs are $2 and most concessions are fairly priced. I say most because I couldn’t understand how an Italian Sausage with peppers and onions cost $10. A burger went for $5, while a hot dog was $3.50.
Cost Ranking: 7 out of 8
Fan Support and Atmosphere
About 2,000 to 4,000 attend Brown games on a weekly basis and the large stadium capacity makes attendance look even smaller. The team often ranks down at the bottom of the Ivy League. Overall, it is noted in city and conference circles the significant apathy towards Brown athletics and it shows on the field too. Fans seemed like they would be laid back, but many got on their feet during multiple occasions and they were more vocal than expected. Enthusiasm was mixed as there were times that I thought they sat on their hands after a big play, while there were other times where I was impressed, like on the 3rd down stop early in the fourth quarter that produced a nice pop as most of the crowd stood up. One unique feature is the Brown Victory Bell, located behind an endzone. Built in 1890 and donated to the school 100 years later, they ring the bell after each touchdown and win.
Fan Support Ranking: 3 out of 8
Atmosphere Ranking: 6.5 out of 8
Brown Stadium is the only one in the Ivy League that has a natural grass surface…..There are no lights at Brown Stadium……I wasn’t a fan of the concourses and another reason for my dislike was how a few of the openings from the seating bowl didn’t lead to the concourse, but instead a locked door. One of those was for the Brown locker room, making for an odd sight as players exited and entered the field…..Supposedly the “DE – FENSE” chant began here in 1948?……Brown plays the University of Rhode Island each year and these two state rivals compete for the Governor’s Cup…..PA Announcer: Stop Shouting…..Why is it required that all Ivy League bands have to act like goofballs?……I almost got hit by a low-flying bird while walking to the stadium. Yup.
Brown came to play on Senior Day and it was incredible how this two-win team dominated the Dartmouth Defense trying to win the Ivy League. The Bears’ first six possessions all went inside the Big Green 10-yard line. The problem: Finishing the job. Only two of those possessions finished with a TD and Brown “settled” for 23 points. If you watched sports long enough, there was that feeling Dartmouth could come back. It was 23-14 when the Big Green went for it on 4th down with 13 minutes left at their own 40. That feeling of comeback disappeared as Brown got the sack. However, the ensuing possession only lasted a few minutes as the home side had to punt. Dartmouth zipped down the field and quickly scored to cut the deficit to 2. A defensive stop preceded another quick touchdown as the Visitors showed the resolve of a champion as their sideline went bonkers. The game wasn’t done however as Brown had a chance, getting down to the 15-yard line with around 30 seconds remaining. The theme of the game played out as they couldn’t punch it in and Isiah Swann made the acrobatic game-winning interception. It was a fascinating game with plenty of offense as the teams both threw for over 400 yards and they combined for 54 first downs. With Yale also winning a wild one against Harvard, 50-43, the Bulldogs and Big Green share the championship.