Expensive repairs, less-than-ideal climate lead most faculty soccer stadiums to make use of synthetic turf

When a brand new stadium was constructed at South Alabama, positioned in one among America’s rainiest cities, the choice was made to go along with a synthetic turf taking part in floor.

At San Diego State, the place the climate appears nearly all the time good, going with a grass area was a simple selection — however not the standard one in main faculty .

Of the 133 faculties that presently compete within the top-tier of NCAA Division I, 94 have synthetic floor fields (71%) and 39 have grass (29%), most of these at Energy 5 faculties that may afford the maintenance and upkeep. A half-century in the past, there have been 74 such faculties taking part in on pure grass and the quantity truly peaked at 75 round 20 years in the past.

It has plummeted since, even with extra money flowing into Energy 5 college coffers from billion-dollar TV contracts.

The subject is a sophisticated one with some faculties (Arkansas and Mississippi, for instance) switching 4 instances prior to now century and others akin to Michigan and Ohio State altering surfaces 3 times.

Many faculties discover turf is cheaper to keep up, notably for live shows or different non-athletic occasions, though there are issues about athlete accidents.

When Aaron Rodgers went down with an harm just some performs into his first season with the New York Jets, it reignited calls from NFL gamers for pure grass fields for his or her security (about half of the 30 NFL stadiums use grass).

In main faculty , the gamers don’t have a union behind them to voice issues. Some do have a choice.

“I might a lot fairly (play) on grass,” mentioned Wisconsin quarterback Tanner Mordecai, who has performed on turf for the Badgers and at SMU and on grass for Oklahoma. “I don’t know all of the research and all that, however I do know that it feels higher. Simply feels higher in your joints and your bones. It doesn’t really feel such as you beat your self up as a lot.”

Some research — together with one utilizing NCAA harm surveillance information from 2004-14 — have concluded taking part in soccer on synthetic surfaces will increase the frequency of sure decrease physique accidents. Consultants, although, are hesitant to attract definitive conclusions.

“The preliminary research have proven that there’s a rise in harm danger to the decrease extremity on artificial surfaces vs. grass,” mentioned Bud Cooper, medical professor within the division of kinesiology on the College of Georgia . “Now, is that the Bible? It’s not.”

A lot of the grass fields in high stage of Division I are within the South, Southwest and California, together with San Diego State’s new $310 million stadium that opened a couple of 12 months in the past. Derek Grice, the previous affiliate athletic director at San Diego State, mentioned local weather was a key consider selecting grass. The rising season is comparatively fixed.

Except for being the house of the Aztecs, plans for Snapdragon Stadium embody skilled soccer and changing into a vacation spot for worldwide golf equipment and competitors. That requires a grass taking part in floor.

Grice has labored at different faculties the place figuring out what floor to make use of in a facility wasn’t so clear reduce. Supreme situations don’t all the time exist and the standard of synthetic turf is bettering, he mentioned.

“I consider for those who have a look at it a majority of athletes are going to desire to play on grass. If it’s a well-maintained floor,” Grice mentioned.

And there’s the catch.

“I believe it truthfully relies on the grass,” Ohio State quarterback Kyle McCord mentioned. “I really feel just like the turf — particularly across the Large Ten — is fairly constant. I might say good grass is best than turf, however I believe total simply turf as a result of you understand what you’re going to get with it.”

First-year Nebraska coach Matt Rhule, who has additionally coached within the NFL, had the apply fields in Lincoln modified to grass. The Cornhuskers’ Memorial Stadium has synthetic turf.

“Accidents occur on every little thing. I don’t ever like one factor to be the tip all, be all. However I’m a grass fan,” Rhule mentioned. “That’s why I made the apply fields grass in order that we will have extra reps on the softer floor.”

South Alabama’s Hancock Whitney Stadium opened in 2020. Athletic director Joel Erdmann mentioned the varsity went with FieldTurf, the most typical synthetic floor amongst Bowl Subdivision faculties, largely as a result of Cell, Alabama, will get a lot rain.

“For those who’re going to have a pure grass area, particularly in our local weather, you’re going to must have a really strong drainage system,” he mentioned.

Erdmann mentioned the price of the artificial floor South Alabama makes use of was about $1.6 million and estimated the preliminary price of a grass area would have be related.

“However then I believe what you run into is the annual upkeep prices,” he mentioned. “As an alternative of getting two grounds guys, you’ve received six. And also you’ve received a $60-, $70,000 mower that should have upkeep.”

Sooner or later, weighing the price of turf vs. grass may also embody authorized charges.

Jennifer Steinmetz, an legal professional with Tucker Ellis who has defended producers and distributors towards product legal responsibility claims, mentioned in e mail that turf fields in soccer and different sports activities might be ripe for litigation.

“Whereas we anticipate that turf producers would be the main goal, schools do face potential legal responsibility,” she mentioned.

Ramogi Huma, the chief director of the Nationwide Faculty Gamers Affiliation, in contrast issues about taking part in surfaces to move accidents. Ultimately, stress by the NFLPA pressured the NFL to undertake obligatory concussion protocols, however that doesn’t exist in faculty soccer as a result of the athletes don’t have illustration.

For some gamers, the taking part in floor doesn’t a lot matter.

“Shoot, we used to play on the street and on rocks after I was little,” Texas defensive again Jahdae Barron mentioned.


AP Sports activities Writers Eric Olson in Lincoln, Nebraska; Mitch Stacy in Columbus, Ohio; Jim Vertuno in Austin, Texas; and Steve Megargee in Madison, Wisconsin, contributed.


Comply with Ralph D. Russo at https://twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP and pay attention at http://www.appodcasts.com


AP faculty soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-football-poll