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Wallace Wade Stadium

The Wallace Wade Stadium, which was originally named the Duke Stadium, is the home of Duke’s football team, the Blue Devils. The stadium also owns a special niche in college football history; it is the only facility outside Pasadena, California, to host the Rose Bowl. In 1967, in honor of its legendary football coach, the stadium’s name was changed to Wallace Wade Stadium.

Established in 1924, Duke University had not originally allocated funds to build a stadium. Driven by a vision to create a legendary football program, however, university leaders issued certificates of indebtedness at 6% interest and appealed to alumni and friends to buy the bonds. Their stated goal was for 1,000 individuals to each invest $100 in Duke’s athletic future. The university successful raised sufficient funds to start construction on the stadium in the final months of 1928.

Completed in 1929, Duke Stadium was built with 33,941 seats (its current capacity) and was unique to other Southern stadiums: fans entered the facility through gates at the top, instead of at the bottom.  Built in a natural ravine, the stadium was flush with the ground above, and its horseshoe shape offered spectators unobstructed vision.  Engineers had curved the seating at the bottom so that the bleachers were elevated six feet above the field.  The top row is only forty feet above the playing field.

With 25,000 spectators present, the first football game played in Duke Stadium was between Duke University and the University of Pittsburgh.  Although Duke lost, Wallace Wade, one of America’s most successful football coaches at the University of Alabama, expressed interest in joining the Duke program.  Wade had brought Alabama’s football program from obscurity into the national sporting spotlight after the program won back-to-back national championships (1925 and 1926) and another one in 1931.  Shocking the football world, Wade decided in 1931, to assume command of the Blue Devils.

As head coach of Duke, Wallace Wade secured Duke’s first Rose Bowl invitation to play for a national championship, which the school lost. After coaching Duke for sixteen years Wade compiled an impressive record (110 wins and 36 losses) that included six conference titles and two Rose Bowl appearances. In honor of his coaching legacy, Duke Stadium name was changed on September 30, 1967, to Wallace Wade Stadium.

The stadium is the only facility outside Pasadena, California to ever host the Rose Bowl.  In December 1941, Duke and Oregon State were scheduled to play for the national championship title; however, a war-time attack threat on the California coast jeopardized the scheduled game.

After Japan attacked the U.S. naval base in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on December 7, 1941, the U.S. government discouraged Bowl officials from assembling large crowds on the West Coast.  Duke University then offered to host the game, and on January 1, 1942, for the first and last time in the history, The Rose Bowl was played outside of Pasadena.  Duke lost to Oregon State, but rose bushes remain outside Wallace Wade Stadium.

On September 18, 2010, Duke played Alabama and drew a crowd of 39,042 enthusiastic spectators, the largest in sixteen years. The 1949 Duke-North Carolina game, with 57,500 in attendance, is still the all-time record.

The stadium is also frequently used for track and field competitions. The natural-grass football field is surrounded by an eight-lane track. The track is synthetic, mondo rubber and has been resurfaced numerous times since its construction. In 1984, the stadium also added a lighting system that allowed for nighttime events.  Becoming the first to do so in North Carolina, the university also added a video board in 1998.  Wallace Wade Stadium has served as the site for the 1990 and 2000 NCAA Track & Field Championships, 1995 USA Pan Africa and 1996 Gold Rush meets.


Sources:

Durham Convention & Visitors Bureau, Wallace Wade Stadium, http://www.durham-nc.com/ (last accessed September 24, 2010); Duke University Archives, Wallace Wade Stadium, http://library.duke.edu/uarchives/ (last accessed September 24, 2010); Scotti Kent, It Happened in North Carolina, (Helena, 2000).

By Kellie Slappey, North Carolina History Project


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