The Ohio State football stadium in 1948, shown above, had a capacity of 66,210 people. Today the stadium holds 102,780 fans, due to an expansion that closed up the open end and cut off the magnificent vista captured by LIFE photographer Bernard Hoffman. This procession of fans from more than 70 years ago looks mystic and otherworldy, with the original architecture exposed and the fans walking across a field toward the open end in their formal attire. This is example of the nature of change. Something was gained—the chance for more fans to cheer on the Buckeyes in person. Something else is lost—the stadium being seen the way it was designed to be. These collection of images, from both on the field and world around it, captures a time when the game lived on a different scale than it does today.
Jim Brown and his Syracuse teammates hit the ropes to train for the 1956 season. Photo by Peter Stackpole]/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation
It wasn’t just the fans who dressed more formally. Notre Dame coach Frank Leahy (left) congratulated Michigan State coach Biggie Munn after the Spartans’ 21-3 win in 1952. Photo by Mark Kauffman/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation
Speaking of Michigan State, here’s Spartans star running back Billy Wells from that undefeated ’52 team showing off his agility while doing the Charleston at a sorority house. Wells would star in the 1954 Rose Bowl, play in the NFL for five seasons. Photo by Joe Scherschel/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation
Look ma, no facemasks. The Georgia football uniform looked very different between the hedges in 1948. Photo by Ed Clark/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation
West Virginia coach Art Lewis recruited Jim Hillen (standing in doorway) with a visit to the family home in 1955. Hillen, from Smock, Pa., played offensive tackle for the Mountaineers. Photo by Ed Clark]/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation
West Virginia football practice, 1955. Photo by Ed Clark]/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation.
Fans enjoyed a picnic at the University of Arkansas before the Razorbacks hosted Texas A&M in 1955. Photo by Joseph Scherschel]/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation.
Cheerleaders at Wisconsin’s Camp Randall Stadium for a game against Marquette. Photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt]/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation.
A precursor of Camp Randall’s “Jump Around” tradition? Photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt/]/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation
Not a still from a horror movie. After a 1937 win against Iowa, Nebraska right end Elmer Dohrmann attempted to steam away the pain. Photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt/]/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation
The rain drew out the umbrellas at the Purdue homecoming game in 1961. Photo by Francis Miller/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation