Ask Benny: Harvard or Penn? Which stadium is older?

Illustration by Bo Brown

 

 
 

Dear Benny,

I want you to settle once and for all which university has the oldest college football stadium. Harvard Stadium, built in 1903, claims the title. But wasnít Franklin Field constructed in 1895?

—College Stadium Junkie

Dear Football Fanatic,

As you point out, Harvard Stadium was built in 1903 and Penn’s historic Franklin Field was completed in 1895. Yet, some Harvard supporters still claim their facility to be “the nation’s oldest stadium.”

Say what they will, few agree with the Crimson. Not only does the NCAA—that’s the governing body for intercollegiate athletics—officially recognize Franklin Field as the “nation’s oldest stadium still used for football,” but the Yale Daily News, in a 2001 article, also gave the honor to Penn, stating in ever-so-simple terms: “Pennsylvania’s Franklin Field is the oldest collegiate football stadium.”

The key to Harvard’s claim may come down to tricky wording. While some Harvard literature calls its stadium “the oldest,” other materials are more specific: One Harvard athletics site, for instance, proclaims it to be, more narrowly, “the nation’s first permanent concrete stadium for athletics.”

Franklin Field underwent a series of renovations after its initial construction—including a major facelift to add a second deck, which radically altered the stadium’s structure. So what Harvard may really be saying is that their stadium is the nation’s oldest “original stadium structure still used for football and still looking like it did way-back-when.” We’ll give them that one.

Originally published on December 8, 2005