College football season is upon us and not a second too soon! For southern folks, this is the favorite time of year. Sure, the Christmas holidays are nice and summer is fun, but college football season is what we look forward to more than anything. And for good reason. The best college football in America is played down here, right in our backyard (see seven-straight national titles for proof). But what happens on the field is not what makes SEC football so special.
It’s all the traditions, pageantry and madness surrounding the game. The culture of college football – that is the beating heart pumping excitement through our veins each fall. The names of the players and coaches change each year, and even the uniforms and team logos change over time. But the supremely unique gameday rituals at each campus carry on from one generation to the next. These events, not those that happen on the playing field, are what make the SEC gameday experience truly unforgettable.
Not every SEC team opens the 2013 season at home, so some of these special scenes won’t take place for at least another week. But fan bases of the following teams are set to carry on the ages-old traditions that make this conference the best in college football.
Tomorrow night in Columbia, SC, good ol’ boys in their 50s will dance and wave towels to a Euro-electronica rave song just before kickoff in the South Carolina Gamecocks’ season-opener against North Carolina.
Saturday in Auburn, Ala. – a town with less than 60,000 residents – more than 87,000 fans will stand and shake pom-poms as an eagle makes a pregame flight around Jordan-Hare Stadium before the Auburn Tigers take on Washington State, just as it’s happened many times before.
In College Station, Texas, Aggies fans will silently pass by a graveyard of collies, honoring the revered canines of yesteryear before joining together as one united force at Kyle Field – the legendary 12th Man – to cheer on the Texas A&M Aggies against Rice.
In Gainesville, Fla., a new person will take center stage in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium each week to lead the Florida Gators faithful in the traditional “Two bits, four bits” routine carried out by the now “retired” Mr. Two Bits, who conducted the cheer at every home game from 1949 to 2008. First up this weekend is former Gators running back Errict Rhett.
In Fayetteville, Ark., new Arkansas Razorbacks head coach Bret Bielema will experience for the first time the home fans “Calling the Hogs” when Louisiana-Lafayette comes to town.
Likewise in Knoxville, Tenn., Butch Jones will coach his first game as the Tennessee Volunteers head coach and likely will know all the words to “Rocky Top” by the time the Vols finish off Austin Peay.
With some SEC teams opening the 2013 season away from home, several great gameday traditions will have to wait a week. No cowbells will clang in Starkville, Miss this weekend. No Dawgs will be barking in Sanford Stadium (though that can’t be said for greater Athens, Ga.). And the lights at LSU’s Tiger Stadium will be turned off this Saturday Night in Death Valley. But it won’t be long before these, too, are in full swing.
Whether you’re an old-timer who’s been to every home game since the 1960s or a toddler experiencing your first gameday on campus, you can’t help but get wrapped up in the spectacle. There’s absolutely nothing like it. Though college football is always changing, for each school, the traditions ensure it always stays the same. And for that, we fans are thankful. So, whether you yell “Roll Tide,” “War Eagle,” “Go Gators” or “Go Dawgs, Sic ‘Em,” know that your team is part of the greatest collective tradition in college football – Saturday’s down south. Now let’s get it on!