15 of the Greatest Traditions in College Football
The 15 Greatest Traditions in College Football
College football is all about tradition. Every Saturday fans pack the stands at their alma maters to cheer on the teams in which they are so invested -- in some cases financially, but in every case, emotionally. Because of this attachment, some amazing traditions have been established over the years that are as much a part of the college football experience as the action on the field.
While almost every school has a song that every student and alumni knows -- and is sung at the end of the game -- some of these truly stand out. Beyond this, there are some mascots that are larger-than-life that are the stuff of legend and stories.
Even more obscure are those traditions that you can't help but wonder about the backstory -- about how they became a one-off occurrence, much less something that fans cherish from one sunny Saturday to the next.
In putting together a list of the 15 greatest traditions in college football, our goal was to cross the spectrum, and give our readers a taste of the obscure, the beautiful and the special -- all of which make college football the best sport on the planet.
Missouri Founds the Homecoming Tradition
The University of Missouri held college football's first Homecoming celebration in 1911 at what was then called Rollins Field. The Missouri Alumni Association wanted to boost declining attendance at home football games, so they organized a game where alumni came "home" for a game. The first ever Homecoming game was played in front of a crowd of 10,000 people to a 3-3 tie versus the Kansas Jayhawks.
As we all know, the Homecoming tradition is a staple across college football which fans both young and old enjoy as one of the pinnacles of the college football season.
Mississippi State's Cowbells in the Stands
Noise. You think your team brings noise? Well, maybe.
The definition of noise is the fans at Davis Wade Stadium who support the Mississippi State Bulldogs with one of the loudest noisemakers that I have heard: the cowbell. And, we're not just talking a few cowbells here, we're talking everyone having a cowbell. Need proof of the racket?
Here you go:
Florida State's Chief Osceola Plants the Flaming Spear
The Florida State Seminole have one of the more colorful mascots in college football: Cheif Osecola. While some may see him as a poor representation of Native Americans, the Native American community has been supportive of his portrayal. Regardless, his arrival prior to Seminoles games -- and his dramatic driving of his flaming spear into midfield -- is one of the best spectacles in college football.
Check it out:
Hawaii's Traditional Haka Dance
The Hawai'i Warriors are one of the more interesting teams in college football. Made up of some of the premier talent from the mainland that wants a different college experience -- combined with the traditional Islander and Samoan populations on the islands -- the Warriors are a true melting pot, and representative of some of the best elements of college football.
Because of the native influence, the Warriors have adopted a traditional pre-game dance called the Haka, which they perform prior to the kickoff of every game-- regardless of whether home or away. One of the world's most famous rugby teams -- the New Zealand All-Blacks -- shares the tradition with the Warriors, and regardless of who you ask it's an intimidating and impressive sight to see.
Here it is:
Notre Dame Players Tapping the Play Like a Champion Plaquard
It would be hard to find someone willing to argue that the Notre Dame football program is one of the most tradition-rich programs in the history of college football. In spite of recent controversy, the Irish have some colorful, and beautiful traditions that will withstand the test of time. The most well-known -- and most valuable to the team -- is the touching of the "Play Like a Champion Today" sign -- which every player values just before running out onto the field at Notre Dame Stadium. It's a true gem.
The Annual Army-Navy Game
One of the longest-running annual rivalries in college football is the annual matchup between two of the country's most valued and respected service academies -- the Army Golden Knights and the Navy Midshipmen. Since 1890, the game has been held at several locations, but not one game has been missed regardless of the wars that have required the service of those who would normally be involved.
Typically played on the second Saturday in December, the game bridges the gap between the end of the conference championship season and the start of the bowl season -- a welcome old friend in the lull.
The World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party
It is what it is.
The annual meeting between the Georgia Bulldogs and Florida Gators in Jacksonville, Florida has earned the moniker "The World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party" for a reason. Fans from both schools intermingle and party HARD before the kickoff between the two traditional rivals. In short, it's the biggest party of the fall -- in the country -- among college football fans. Show me one better and I'll give you a dollar. No, seriously, I will.
Penn State's Whiteout
The Penn State Nittany Lions have had to deal with their share of adversity over the course of the past few years, with the adversity thrust upon them due to the Jerry Sandusky / Joe Paterno scandal -- but there's little doubt about it, their fans support the players that have stuck with the team through thick and thin 100%.
One of the more breathtaking traditions in college football is Penn State's "Whiteout" where every single fan in the stands at Beaver Stadium decks out in white to support the Nittany Lions.
It's impressive -- to say the least:
Ralphie's Pre-Game Run at Folsom Field
While the Colorado Buffaloes have struggled on the field the past few seasons, their traditions stay strong. One of the these is the running of the school's official mascot, Ralphie, a female bison that can reach speeds of 25 miles per hour running across Folsom Field in Boulder. Ralphie first took the field in 1966, and is in the fifth incarnation today, but with no less of the speed -- or flash.
The War Eagle's Entrance at Jordan Hare
The Auburn Tigers have a bit of a split personality. While they consider the Tigers their official mascot, you'll more often hear the phrase "WAR EAGLE!" as much as anything around Jordan Hare Stadium. The reason? The magestic eagle that makes its flight through the stadium prior to every Auburn home game -- creating one of the most beautiful and unique spectacles in all of college sports -- much less college football.
Dotting the I on Script Ohio
The Ohio State Buckeyes band is one of the most colorful -- and creative -- in college football. Prior to the game, the band does its famous "Script Ohio" formation, in which the the drum major and the honorary "I dotter" -- a highly sought-after job -- high-five each other and trot to the top of the I in the script to dot it to cap things off. The moment always brings a massive cheer from the Buckeyes' faithful at Ohio Stadium -- an generates a ton of energy prior to kickoff.
West Virginia's Rendition of Country Roads
When you think the West Virginia Mountaineers, what do you think? Burning couches? Shame on you. What you should be thinking is the wonderful rendition of John Denver's classic "Country Roads" which is sung in unison by players and fans alike at the end of each Mountaineers home game. It's a wonderful display of unity for college football's most successful program without a National Championship. Bless em'.
The University of Texas Tower
As a University of Texas alum, I may be a little biased here, but there is nothing more beautiful than the Tower when it is illuminated to pay homage not only to athletic, but academic success. The University lights the tower orange the second its athletic teams take home a victory, light it with a No. 1 in white when one of the Longhorn teams take home a national championship, and mark it with the year of the class that graduates every summer and fall. The Tower is one of the most noticeable icons in Austin -- in short, it's an institution within the institution.
Jumping Around at Wisconsin
Often copied, but never duplicated, the tradition of the Wisconsin Badgers fans jumping in unison to House of Pain's "Jump Around" between the third and fourth quarters at Camp Randle stadium in Madison is one of the most glorious traditions in all of college sports. From what I understand -- although I haven't had the privilege to enjoy it in person yet myself -- the stadium literally shakes when things get rocking. After all, there's no party like a Wisconsin party.
Texas A&M's Midnight Yell
This one will probably ruffle some feathers, but having seen it in person, the Texas A&M Aggies' tradition of Midnight Yell on the nights prior to home football games is as good as it gets. There's just something unique about the tradition and comraderie in College Station that you can't quite put your finger on, but it's special. And, mind you, this is coming from a dyed-in-the-wool Orangeblood who has a diploma from the Forty Acres hanging on his wall. I know. Blasphemy. Sue me.