Posted October 11, 2013
EAST LANSING — It has been nearly five decades since Clinton Jones starred at running back for one of the most successfulMichigan State teams to play in Spartan Stadium.
And still today, the MSU Hall of Famer can feel the environment that he played in every home Saturday during his playing career in the mid-1960s.
“If you look at Spartan Stadium, it’s a lot like that church that people go to every Saturday,” Jones said. “Everybody gathered on Saturday to pay homage in one way or another to the Spartans.
“When we went out there, it was like a place of worship when we got out on that field. That was Spartan Stadium. That’s my take on it. The more I talk about it, it brings back things in my life. I can still feel it. And I’m 68 years old.”
Jones is one of the many links to the storied past of Spartan Stadium, which will host its 500th game when MSU faces Indiana at noon Saturday. He was part of the Spartans’ national championship teams of 1965 and 1966 and played in the legendary “Game of the Century” — MSU’s 10-10 home tie with Notre Dame.
That contest is regarded by many to be the best ever to take place in Spartan Stadium, which has been home to MSU football for 90 seasons.
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MSU owns a 339-147-13 all-time record at the stadium.
“It’s a unique place because of the fans,” said former MSU running back T.J. Duckett, who watched older brother, Tico, star for the Spartans in 1989-92 before leaving his own mark on the program in 1999-2001. “We have some of the best fans I’ve ever played for on any level. It’s something about the fight song, it’s something about Sparty, it’s something about that green and white in Spartan Stadium that for an opposing team makes it a hostile environment.
“For us, the home team, you wouldn’t want it any other way. They are not only playing against 11 on the field, but there’s also 80,000 that they have to deal with. To know that that’s there every single Saturday you play at home, it gets no better.”
Spartan Stadium has been one of the most popular destinations in college football, with MSU ranking among the top 25 in the nation in total attendance in each of the past 57 seasons. And to the more than 70,000 fans that, on average, attend each game, it’s a place that will always be special.
Spartan Stadium — which seated 14,000 when it opened in 1923 and now lists a capacity of 75,005 — has continued to evolve over the years. High-definition video screens and scoreboards were among the enhancements prior to the start of the 2012 season. Construction currently is taking place on the north end of the venue, which will include a two-story building that will feature new locker rooms for teams and coaches and a new entrance plaza.
Even as the stadium continues to evolve, its location on the banks of the Red Cedar River and its natural playing surface are its greatest qualities, says George Blaha, who is in his 36th season as MSU’s radio play-by-play announcer.
“The best thing to me about Spartan Stadium has always been it sits in the middle of a beautiful campus,” Blaha said. “Everything we do around here to make it look even better only adds beauty to our campus and accentuates how important Spartan Stadium is.
“I think the one thing I love about the stadium right now is they’re playing on God’s green grass. I think the players really appreciate that. And this grass is so good here.”
Brian Calloway writes for the Lansing State Journal.