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I attended UMass-BYU games in both Provo and Amherst. Here’s the difference

Provo. Amherst. Let’s throw down.

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Now that I’ve seen BYU vs. UMass at both Provo and Amherst, it’s time for me to compile a comparison piece between the two. Which stadium is better?

Now that I’ve seen BYU vs. UMass at both Provo and Amherst, it’s time for me to compile a comparison piece between the two. Which stadium is better?

Herb Scribner, Deseret News

AMHERST, Mass. — Just imagine looking up at the scoreboard, thinking your alma mater is losing 42-0 at halftime, only to see they’re actually losing 49-0.

Yep. That was me Saturday during the BYU-UMass game at McGuirk Alumni Stadium.

It was actually my second time attending a BYU-UMass football game. In 2016, I wrote about my experiences at the 51-9 BYU victory at LaVell Edwards Stadium. The article even caught the attention of Cougarboard, a fan forum for BYU sports. My review of the stadium was mostly positive. Of course, I wasn’t a big fan of the CougarTail (I can still taste the sticky maple syrup frosting), nor some of the ways fans treated me, an away fan. Still, I vowed to come back and see another game. (Spoiler: I haven’t.)

But then this opportunity came up to see BYU face UMass in Amherst, Mass., where I lived for four years during college. I couldn’t pass up the chance.

Now that I’ve seen games in both Provo and Amherst, it’s time to compare. Which stadium is better? Which has the better food? Are one group of fans better than the other? Let’s do a deep dive.

Stadium

LaVell Edwards Stadium in 2016 buzzed with excitement. You could tell fans were genuinely excited for the game. Though not a newer venue, LaVell Edwards Stadium certainly had the big-time feel.

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UMass fans celebrate the start of a football game against BYU at McGuirk Alumni Stadium in Amherst, Mass., in 2019. The fellow college football independents could meet again if other conferences only play league games in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Herb Scribner, Deseret News

McGuirk Alumni Stadium leaves something to be desired. Dedicated fans pack certain areas of the stands. At points there was a big-game feel. But the stadium is a way off from the main campus. (Seriously. I got 9,000 steps walking to the game.) It takes time to find the ticket booth, will call and an entrance. Energy from tailgates is spread thin around the stadium. There’s no vibe. There’s a game of football going on. But not a football game.

Winner: BYU

Food

I got sick from the CougarTail and the brat tail that I ate at the Provo game. It’s my own fault, downing all of that sugar. But let’s be real — those desserts are massively full of sugar. I can’t condone eating them, especially when you’re going to be sitting around for awhile. The popcorn was pretty solid for stadium popcorn, though. It was easy to suck that down after filling my stomach with sweetness. Something savory was much welcomed.

A BYU fan holds a Cougartail before the big game begins.

A BYU fan holds a CougarTail before the big game begins.

Herb Scribner, Deseret News

A look at the UMass Dining services cart.

A look at the UMass Dining services cart.

Herb Scribner, Deseret News

But the UMass food appeals more to my core New England roots. Local sausage with peppers and onions? Legal Seafood’s clam chowder? Forget about the sugar. Let’s have some hot food to help us survive this cold game. Heck, the chicken tender basket — the most popular menu item, according to staff members at the dining services booth — can even help you stay warm on those chilly New England days.

Winner: UMass

Fans

As I wrote about before, BYU fans weren’t happy with me. I was probably a little obnoxious with the heavy clapping, the constant “Let’s gooooo” cheers and the general trash talk. But there were a few slights thrown my way by Cougar fans. And the reaction to my original piece on Cougarboard left a sour taste in my mouth. But that’s all good. I deserved it.

At least BYU has a fan culture. UMass? Not so much. A decent crowd surrounded the marching band. About half-a-dozen students hung out in the parking lot. Nice. Cool. Whatever. The alumni had a small gathering, too. But the UMass fans were so spread out that it was hard to find one core group. UMass had a lot of older fans who were in the stadium, ready to watch the game. But there wasn’t a festive vibe like BYU presented in Provo.

Winner: BYU

Weather

Though we expected it to be a cold affair in Provo, the sun poked its way out from behind the clouds. Clear skies, shining sun and a perfect breeze made it an awesome fall day. UMass vs. BYU at McGuirk Alumni Stadium had basically the same weather. Cloudless blue skies, heavy sunshine, cool November weather that is perfect for football. But it was a little colder in Amherst.

Winner: Draw

Views

This isn’t even close. Provo has the beautiful view of the mountains. Literally nothing to complain about from my vantage point. I sat rather high up at the game, but even that was a worthwhile seat.

McGuirk Alumni Stadium literally offers no views other than dead trees, wet grass and a new practice facility. Dirt roads stretch around the stadium. Flat glass patches fill space between the parking lot and the stadium. It’s an older venue in need of upgrades if it wants to look like a big-time school stadium.

Winner: BYU

Experience

When I visited the Provo game, I didn’t really love how everything panned out. Part of it was because I was an away fan wearing away gear. Looks, nods and little digs didn’t inspire me to come back to the stadium. And I didn’t love seeing my alma mater lose.

The UMass affair went by overwhelmingly quickly. I did some reporting while I was there and had less leisure time. But I was able to soak in the feeling of being back at my alma mater. Can’t dislike any opportunity to think about the past.

Winner: UMass

Drive & parking

The drive to Provo was a little tricky. We had to cut through town and search deep into a nearby neighborhood for a parking spot. We walked a few blocks to get to the actual stadium. Of course, it was free, so I can’t complain about that.

UMass is a little different. The drive to the stadium is quick and painless. Cruising down route nine didn’t offer any problems. Parking wasn’t a problem, but the lot was a good walk from the core of the stadium. Lot 22 is a normally a student lot so it’s a little bit far from the actual stadium. It doesn’t help that there aren’t perfectly outlined sidewalks or walkways for you to travel so you can get to the stadium.

Winner: Draw

Ease of attendance

Walking into LaVell Edwards Stadium wasn’t tough at all. Once we were inside, it was wicked easy to find our spot.

LaVell Edwards Stadium.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

Getting into Amherst is easy. Finding the stadium is easy. But UMass doesn’t offer an ease-of-access into the actual game. The parking lot is on the north side but the tickets are on the east side. The season ticket holder entrance is closer to the north, so that’s easy for them. Fans looking to buy tickets or use will call have to go through a large patch of a sidewalk. It’s not an ideal experience.

Winner: BYU

The actual game

Now, we get to the part that matters. Let’s talk about the actual competition. The matchup in Provo wasn’t too bad. For a moment, I thought UMass would secure the victory on the road, which would have been an epic moment. But, as these things go, UMass fell apart. The squad couldn’t contain the BYU receivers.

Brigham Young Cougars defensive back Hiva Lee (22) recovers a kickoff return fumble during a game against the UMass Minutemen at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016.

Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

This game ... ouf. It was 49-0 at halftime. Think about that: 49-0. Halftime. The game ended up 56-24. Yikes.

Clearly, the original game I attended in Provo gets the nod here. UMass had a shot in the game and it was fairly competitive until BYU pulled away.

Winner: BYU

Overall

It’s clear from all of these rankings that Provo is the winner. I enjoyed my experience in Amherst and Provo. I wouldn’t take back either of the time spent there because the games were fresh, fun and exciting. But if I had to choose Provo or Amherst to host the next match between the two, there’s no question Provo would take the top spot. Amherst still has a long way to go to build a location for a top level football game. The stadium seems like an afterthought, fans aren’t overwhelmingly interested and the UMass football program isn’t where it needs to be yet to make it an entertaining game. So, congrats, Provo. You win.