A Taste of College Football: Ten Unique Traditions
Signs that players touch, songs that fans sing, and trophies that teams fight over.
Fog horns, cowbells, and war chants.
Entrances into stadiums, pre-game tailgating, and age old rivalries.
Retired numbers, helmet stickers, and student sections.
They're all traditions and they all make College Football great. But everyone knows about Notre Dame's "touchdown Jesus". Everyone knows about Ohio State's dotting of the "i". Everyone knows about Florida's gator chomp, FSU's seminole chant, and Alabama's "roll tide" chant.
Most have heard the stories behind Nebraska's blackshirts, Howard's Rock at Clemson, and Texas A&M's "Twelfth Man". While watching collegiate games this year, I've wondered, "What about those traditions that aren't always in the media?".
To begin to find an answer to that question, I turned to the ESPN College Football Encyclopedia. I flipped through and found some of the most unique and interesting traditions that are in college football today. I found that the most interesting traditions all had one aspect in common, dedication.
Whether it be by fans, students, or the athletes themselves, the dedication to the tradition and to the school are what make it truly special and unique. After doing a little extra research, I narrowed it down to the following list of the 10 most unique college football traditions:
10) We'll start off with a relatively simple one—Troy University's Trojan Walk. Now, most schools have adopted some sort of "walk", allowing fans to become closer to the players and coaches. It's exciting to see all the players together, without their pads on, walking into the stadium. But, at Troy, there is a simple, yet unique twist; the players wear bow ties. Apparently, Coach Larry Blakely started the tradition a few years ago, and it stuck. This is one tradition that takes some very dedicated, and mentally strong players to wear bow ties, all while trying to get jacked up for the big game.
9) Most fans like to tailgate before their team's home game. After the tailgating is finished, they walk to the stadium along with the thousands of other colorful fans. At Tennessee and Washington, some fans opt not to follow this "routine". Both schools' stadiums sit on the banks of water, and are the only two like it in the country. Tennessee's Volunteer Navy has grown to over 200 boats that enjoy tailgating on the Tennessee River. The story is that in 1962, former UT radio broadcaster, George Mooney, decided he would come to the game via his boat. The tradition has grown ever since. Washington's Husky Navy has boats come from all over the Seattle area on Lake Washington. The fans dock up at Husky Stadium and enjoy their own unique tailgating experience.
8) Arkansas State's Homecoming is truly unique to their school and football team. You want to talk dedication; imagine having to beat a war drum for 24 hours before each year's homecoming football game. That's what each true freshman football player does at sometime throughout the 24 hour time period. They take turns signalling the biggest home football game of the year.
7) Auburn has a few traditions that could be on this list. In 1960, the students began the "pep rally-style entrance", called "Tiger Walk", which has since caught on at many different campuses. They also roll Toomer's Corner with toilet paper after big victories. Those are neat, but the tradition that makes this list is the pregame tradition best is explained as The War Eagle. The story is told that an Auburn student brought an eagle back to the campus from the battle fields during the civil war. During the 1892 season, the student brought his pet, now nick-named "Tiger", to a game. Apparently, the eagle got loose, and began circling the stadium. I'm not sure if that story is true, but I am certain of the tradition that is found at Jordan-Hare Stadium today. Before each home game, Tiger, the eagle, is released from the upper deck and circles around the stadium, just as the story suggests. As Tiger soars, the 87,000 fans yell, "Waaaaaaaaaa...r" having to re-catch their breath several times. As Tiger swoops down and lands on the field, the crowd chants "EAGLE, HEY!", completing the chant "war eagle, hey!". It is truly a spine tingling experience. The fans have incorporated the cheer into every kickoff, and even have made a greeting out of it. Walking around on gameday, you will most likely hear fans simply say "war eagle" to one another. Still, nothing beats when Tiger is circling Jordan-Hare Stadium.
6) As with Auburn, Texas A&M has a few long standing traditions. I mentioned earlier The Twelfth Man, or the nickname for the fans at Kyle Field. They are notorious for being a class act. They stand for the whole game, never to leave, regardless of the score. When they sing their war chant while swaying, the stadium repordedly shakes. How do these fans make the stadium shake, just by swaying? Texas A&M's Midnight Yell Practice is how. It is what the title describes; they practice yelling to pump up the Twelfth Man. Every night before a home game, the students meet at Kyle Field to yell and "rehearse" cheers. When the yell practice is over, the lights go out, and all the Aggies kiss their dates. If one is dateless, the tradition states that he lites his lighter in hopes of finding another dateless Aggie. The dedication to the Midnight Yell Practice goes beyond just fraternizing before home games. The TAMU faithful meet at The Grove every Thursday before an away game, and again the next day at the site of the away game.
5) New Mexico State isn't a school that many would expect to land on any type of college football poll. But their "A" Tradition is quite unique. In 1920, students decided to gather rocks and hike up Tortugas Mountain to make a display to represent their school. The finished product was a large white "A", which represents New Mexico State's mascot, the Aggies. Every year, the students would hike back up the mountain to re-paint the "A". The display came to have a mystique about it over the years. In 1990, the football team had their worst losing streak in school history, at 27 games. A handful of football players decided they would move some of the rocks out of the way. The whole team ended up hiking up the mountain, restoring the storied tradition. Wouldn't 'ya know it; the football team won their next game, beating Cal State Fullerton, and breaking the losing streak.
4) Wisconsin is another school that has some pretty awesome traditions. The two that I really like are "Jump Around" and Fifth Quarter. Both involve the Badger Band. Between the 3rd and 4th quarter of home football games at Camp Randall Stadium, the band plays "Jump Around", the 80's song originally written by House of Pain. The students and fans jump up and down, just as the title of the song suggests. Wisconsin administrators reportedly have had to get architects inspect Camp Randall, to make sure the stadium can handle the tradition, as the stadium is known to shake, even frightening some attendants. Scientists have even used the tradition to conduct experiments, using seismographs to guage the vibrations that the fans cause. Fifth Quarter is the UW tradition that follows each game, home or away. The Badger Band plays excerpts from their half time show as well as Wisconsin fight songs. Thousands of Badger fans have been known to stick around for half an hour, or so, to sing and dance with the band.
3) The next tradition is one that involves the football team, and the football team only. Coach Bobby Bowden started the tradition of Retiring Football Lockers at Florida State in 1988. Other schools retire jersey numbers, which is pretty cool itself, but Bowden put a neat twist on the age old tradition. If you are a student-athlete at FSU and want your football locker retired, you have to achieve some pretty lofty requirements. Only Heisman winners, and/or two-time consensus All-Americans get the honor. To date, a total of 8 Seminoles have had their locker retired. The locker includes the player's worn jersey from their final home game, as well as the rest of his uniform. I really like this tradition, because it embraces Florida State's success and speaks volumes about Bowden's motivational skills.
2) Second on the list is of unique traditions is Georgia Tech. Leave it to the Ramblin' Reck to come up with these. It takes truly creative minds to carry on the traditions of George P. Burdell and the Rat Caps. These two seperate traditions are part of folklore history at Tech. George P. Burdell isn't actually a real person. Rather, he is a fictional name that shows up on class rosters, registration forms, and grade reports dating back to 1927. One student even got Burdell's name enrolled for 3,000 credit hours during one semester. Legend has it that members of Georgia Tech's band have the Public Address announcer call for George P. Burdell at home and away games. The Rat Caps are a tradition for GT freshmen only. If the football team wins, freshmen write the score of the game on the side of their hats right-side-up; if the team loses, they write the score up-side-down.
1) The Palouse Walk is a tradition between Idaho and Washington State. Rather than have a bell or trophy on the line every time these two schools play, they have the Palouse Walk. Only eight miles seperate the two schools, and the loser of the rivalry game walks the entire distance. The editors of the two school newspapers (The Evergreen and The Argonaut) began the tradition, posing it as a friendly wager. The tradition hasn't been strong recently, with the teams not playing each other as often as they once did. This year's editor of The Argonaut (Idaho's student newspaper) recently sent a letter to the Vandal student body, as well as the editor of The Evergreen to renew the tradition, since the teams would be playing each other this year. (To read the entire letter, click here.) The Cougars and Vandals played Saturday, with the 'Cougs winning 45-28. The Palouse walk is scheduled to take place at 10 a.m. this Saturday, the 22nd. Idaho students are encouraged to participate this year, as the 8 mile walk to Pullman, WA should take about 2 hours. Now that is dedication.
Feel free to contribute other unique traditions; after all...college football wouldn't be the same without them.
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