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Reynolds Coliseum: “The Toughest Place I Ever Played”

September 7, 2011

The ESPN college basketball blogging crew of Eamonn Brennan and Diamond Leung continue to do great work. They posted a piece this afternoon where they asked ESPN's college basketball analysts what where the toughest places to play during their college careers, and both Jay Bilas and Hubert Davis cited Reynolds Coliseum as their examples.

Reading their quotes bring back good memories for me as a student at State at the end of the Reynolds era, memories that pale in comparison to some of the ones I'm sure many of you hold if you were in attendance during the 70s and 80s.

I love that we continue to play games there (though I'm not sure three in one season is ideal), but it'll obviously never be like it once was in its heyday.

Here are the quotes from Bilas and Davis:

Jay Bilas:

To me, the toughest places to play had more to do with the quality of the opposing team than anything else, but Reynolds Coliseum at NC State was the toughest place I played while in college. Reynolds was configured much the same way as Cameron Indoor Stadium, but the end zones were much deeper and the sides were right on top of you. Reynolds was loud, edgy and intense. The Wolfpack under Jim Valvano were a tough out and the games were always fistfights, but the thing I remember most is coming back to a huddle and seeing lips move, but not being able to hear what was said. It was so hot and loud that your head would spin. Of course, having to guard guys like Thurl Bailey, Lorenzo Charles, Cozell McQueen and Chris Washburn probably had something to do with my head spinning.

Hubert Davis:

The toughest place I ever played was Reynolds Coliseum, former home of the NC State Wolfpack. Cameron Indoor Stadium and Cole Field House don't even come close. (emphasis mine) I remember the long walk from the locker room to the floor. You had to enter under the bleachers and then had to sprint to the floor so that the fans wouldn't throw soda on us. The end zone seating went back as far as I've ever seen – the sea of red just never seemed to end. In the four years I played there as a Tar Heel, I never scored on the opposite basket away from our bench in the first half. I eventually calmed down, but was always flustered in those first 20 minutes. It was that intimidating.


​I know those days are never coming back, and it's telling about where we are as a program that Davis felt the need clarify what Reynolds Coliseum is and who it was the former home of. Because 20 years ago, people knew…people knew…

Nevertheless, kudos to Bilas and Davis for acknowledging Reynolds' greatness and not copping out by saying The Dean Dome and Cameron Indoor, respectively. Bonus points to Davis for emphasizing that Cameron wasn't even close, in terms of intimidation.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Raldenjones permalink
    September 7, 2011 9:05 pm

    I am fortunate enough to remember those days as I was at State from 83 through 86. Those were some great years when we were the program everyone else in the conference wanted to be and to beat. Reynolds will always hold a very special place in my heart. Duke is right to hold on to Cameron, it’s not what Reynolds was, but it is as close as it gets today. It is good to see that two of ESPN’s finest give credit were credit is due.

    Wonder if anyone else remembers this tune:

    “From the heart of Carolina came the Wolfpack with a Dream
    To get the best of all the rest and be the winning team
    There’s Whittenburg and Charles,
    Thurl Bailey, Sidney Lowe,
    Cozel McQueen and Gannon,
    The rest of all set to go.
    They took the hearts of everyone with them to the West
    There North Carolina’s Wolfpack
    The Best of all our BEST!”

    We were North Carolina’s Team, the team of Destiny, not those blue bellied cry baby’s from Chapel Hill. No, the Tar Heels were just also rans and Duke wasn’t even on the map.

    Those were the good ole days! 

    • Anonymous permalink*
      September 7, 2011 9:21 pm

      Awesome comment! Thanks for reading.

  2. John permalink
    September 8, 2011 5:20 am

    Reynolds was rough place to play up until the last “real” game…. even during the worst years. My guess is that if you look at the ROI on Reynolds vs. the ESA, Reynolds “could” win out easily given the right plan. I would pay $100 face value for almost any ACC game in Reynolds over paying $20 for five ACC games in the ESA. Heck, I’d probably be willing to pay $200 to watch a game vs. one of the big four. If the athletic dept. really just cared about “making games accessible to all” they could have increased the number of tickets available by putting a rotating “game pack” plan in place to replace season tickets. I was a student at State over the transition, and it was more than just the acoustics of the building and the small space. I’ll never forget the first season at the ESA. The “ticket guard” stopped students from moving to seats closer to the floor even when they were still open at intermission. Security teams stopped students from waiving the chairs in the air as had been done at Reynolds. The stupid new noise meter sucked (and still does). And, despite increasing the number of seats available in the arena by A LOT, the total number alloted students was decreased while moving said student sections farther from the court. The most notable difference was that in Reynolds, opposing players acknowledged the fans. They could help but notice these people yelling sitting SOOO close to them. In the ESA, there is just enough space that most all players can ignore the fans. It’s almost as if it were designed specifically with the opposing teams in mind. I work for Penn State now, and they have an even worse situation. They built a huge new arena when they joined the Big 10 that they have never been able to sell out, instead of staying in Rec Hall, which is even smaller than Cameron. That place is loud with just a few pick-up games being played (which is it’s daily utilization now). Going to a game went from a real event (even though they lost a lot) to being boring. Almost everyone I have talked to here has said the best thing PSU could do to improve the basketball program would be to give up on the Bryce-Jordan Center, and move back to Rec Hall. NC State is in about the same position, in my humble opinion. Speaking of the new red fabric on the ESA chairs… if they really wanted to do the teams a favor, they would have replaced them with solid chairs and gotten rid of the cushion. Those cushions are part of what dampens the sound.

    • Anonymous permalink*
      September 8, 2011 1:28 pm


      First off, thanks for sharing those memories. I agree with a lot of what you’ve said here.

      From a student standpoint, I agree that they made a big mistake moving the students further away from the floor. I envy a school like Clemson that has student risers right on the floor underneath the baskets. Like you said, it’s impossible for an opposing player to ignore them when they’re that close. The RBC Center lost a lot when it put that extra 10 feet or so of separation in between the students and the floor.

      The good news is the new student ticketing policy should increase the number of students sitting in the seats closest to the floor. It’s general admission now, so all the students will be able to claim the closest seats first. No more relegating some students to the upper deck while empty seats remain around the court. I think that’ll make a big difference this year.

      On the matter of seat cushions, I hear you, but people raise hell when their comfort levels are impacted. I don’t think that’s an option for change. HOWEVER, I DO think there’s one place we can make a change…by removing the sound deadening material in the rafters and replacing it with a system that can deaden sound when needed (concerts, for example) but not during a hockey or basketball game. It probably wouldn’t transform the RBC atmosphere into Reynolds on its own, but I think it would make a difference. Besides…devising the system would probably make for an interesting engineering project for some enterprising State students.

      I think the Hurricanes have shown us that, with a full house that’s into the game, the RBC Center can be as loud as any venue in America. It’s on State to provide a product that will fill the stands and give them something to scream about.

      • John permalink
        September 8, 2011 2:43 pm

        That’s great with the student tickets!

        Another one would be to do a better job of choosing when to air commercials and stupid things like the chicken dance. Another would be to build a new noisemeter (when it was last used at the RBC they said it was in real bad shape) in the same style as the old one and hoist it up for all basketball games, to be controlled by the cheerleaders as opposed to the jumbotron controllers. Heck, even the Wikipedia page is dominated by information about hockey and other random stuff. There is no mention of it hosting NC State graduations, for example… heck, there isn’t even a single note about an NC State basketball game… not even the first one against Georgia! Instead, it a list of things like WWE and professional bull riding events.

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