College football is more than two teams facing one another on the gridiron. It's two institutions. Two unique and distinct spirited groups. The students, the faculty, the alumni, the band, the cheerleaders...the 11 players have more riding on the game than the standings. These unpaid athletes play for the love of the sport and the love of their school.
That love is manifested not only by the players, but by all of the aforementioned groups. The pagentry of a single college football game is unmatched in the world of sport. Sure, the NFL has the Super Bowl, but until the New York Giants start holding pep rallies, marching band skull sessions, and processions to the stadium, college football shall reign supreme when it comes to pageantry.
Perhaps the most recognizable aspect of this pageantry—and perhaps the most storied—is the collegiate fight song.
Boston College is generally accepted as the birthplace of the collegiate fight song. "For Boston" was introduced in 1885. Since that time, thousands of songs have been composed, ranging from traditional marches to modern riffs.
Determining which fight songs are the best, and which of those is the best of the best is no simple task. Several aspects must be taken into consideration. For our purposes, the methodology used was a meshing of originality, history, spirit, appeal, musicality, and the ever-popular "intagibles."
Without further delay, here are the top 15 college football fight songs!
Written in 1923 by Columbia students Corey Ford and Roy Webb, this grand traditional tune from the Ivy League. Originally titled "Bold Buccaneers," the lyrics were changed and became the fight song of the Columbia Lions.
It is rumored that then-MGM publicity director Howard Dietz (Columbia—1917) was inspired by this song to the point where persuaded the company to adopt the iconic MGM Lion as its mascot.
The Maryland Fight Song, not to be confused with the Maryland Victory Song, was written by Ralph Davis (Maryland—1941). This song, combined with the Maryland Victory Song provide a great tandem of crowd-energizing music.
If only the Terrapin football team could compete with the success of their fight song...
Hawai'i's fight song, "Co-Ed Fight Song" comes from a march titled "Co-Ed" which was originally published in 1914 and written by John Zamecnik, an Ohio native that studied music at the Prague Conservatory of Music. This fight song probably has the best-ever subtitle: "Respectfully Dedicated to the College Girls."
In fact, the original lyrics to the song were "Here's to the girl in college," rather than "Here's to our dear Hawai'i." Priceless.
The fight song of the Razorbacks has been around since the 1920s, and is instantly recognizable throughout the SEC and around the nation as the anthem for the only major sports organization with a member of the pig family as its mascot, and can be heard at every Razorback sporting event and student gathering.
As with many colleges and universities, Harvard maintains several fight songs. However, "Ten Thousand Men of Harvard" is the most frequently performed of the songs cheering on the Crimson. Written in 1918 by A. Putnam (Harvard—1918).
Most freshmen at Harvard learn the song in the first few weeks on campus at an annual gathering where the marching band parades across Harvard Yard. It is also, perhaps, the only collegiate fight song in America where the first verse is sung in Dog Latin (a form of Latin without regard to proper grammar, used to mock academic seriousness).
"Wildcat Victory" has been around since 1927, and is one of the more instantly-recognizable fight songs in the Big 12. The song is typically performed twice in succession.
A simple, pleasing melody is easily learned by students and fans, purple and white-clad legions of fans belt out the lyrics to this song at every KSU football and basketball game.
The fight song for WSU, titled simply "Washington State University Fight Song," was composed in 1919 for a class project by Zella Melcher and Phyllis Sayles.
This song also has the singular honor of being immortalized by John Candy in the 1980's comedy "Volunteers." The film spoofs "The Bridge on the River Kwai" and the fight song takes the place of the "Colonel Bogey March" with hilarious results after becoming the theme song for the Communists.
The "MSU Fight Song"(typically referred to as "Falcone Fight" after former director Leonard Falcone who arraigned the current version of the song) was written in 1915 when Michigan State University was the Michigan Agricultural College. A MAC cheerleader named Francis Irving Lankey took the turn of the century hymn "Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus" and added lyricist Arthur Sayles original lyrics to create the new fight song.
The song consists of a verse, a chorus, a breakstrain, and a repeat of the chorus. The song is almost two minutes in length.
Generally recognized as the first college fight song, "For Boston" was composed by T.J. Hurley (Boston College—1885).
Since the 1880s, many college fight songs have been written following the model laid out by BC. "For Boston" is a traditional march of a quasi-repeating 16 measures, and the vast majority of college fight songs follow this pattern.
Originally written in 1910 by Lt. Philip Egner (US Army), "On Brave Old Army Team," Army legend states that Lt. Egner thought up the tune one day walking home, and quickly jotted down the notes on his stiffly stretched sleeve so he wouldn't forget the tune.
The song was immediately popularized among the Corps of Cadets.
With Army's football dominance in the mid-1940s, the song became popular across the nation as a war-time song, and is still sung today on Army installations all around the globe.
This great song, with no official name, is actually a combination of three different songs that together became the Georgetown Fight Song (typically known as "There Goes Old Georgetown").
"The Touchdown Song" was written in 1913, and is the part of the song that contains "There goes old Georgetown, straight for a touchdown!" "Cheer for Victory," written in 1915, and "The Hoya Song" of 1930 were added in their entirety to complete the fight song.
Adding to the song's lore is the fact that the author of the three songs, and the combination fight song remain lost to history.
"Yea, Alabama" was written in celebrations of the Tide's 1926 Rose Bowl victory over Washington. A contest was held by The Rammer-Jammer newspaper.
A contest panel, overseen by faculty from Alabama's music department selected the winning song composed by Ethelred Lundy Sykes, an Alabama engineering student. Sykes rose to the rank of Brigadier General in the US Air Force, and donated the song's copyright to the university in 1947.
While written to commemorate the school's '26 Rose Bowl win, the lyrics proved to be an oddity over the years referencing the Rose Bowl, as SEC schools typically do not compete in the Rose Bowl.
The "Notre Dame Victory March" is one of the best-loved and most-recognizable songs (of any kind, not just fight songs) in the United States.
Written in 1904 by Rev. Michael Shea and his brother John Shea while they were students at Notre Dame.
Notre Dame first copyrighted the song in 1928, and has appeared in countless television shoes and films, including "The Simpsons," "Knute Rokne, All American," "Airplane!," and, "Rudy."
A number of other colleges and countless high schools use the song as their official fight song, and a few professional Australian-rules football teams use the song as their team anthem.
Hail to "The Victors." The University of Michigan's iconic fight song is only our second fight song from the 19th century to make the top 15.
Written in 1898 by UM student Louis Elbel following a last-minute win over the University of Chicago to win the Western Conference championship, "The Victors" was said to be, "the greatest college fight song ever written." That quote, in and of itself may not mean a whole lot.
But when one considers that that quote came from John Philip Sousa, the world's greatest composer of band marches, it's hard to argue that "The Victors" belongs at or near the top of any list of college fight songs.
Often (incorrectly) referred to as "Hail to the Victors," the song is so popular that during the Presidency of Gerald Ford (Michigan—1935), "The Victors" replaced "Hail to the Chief" as the song that announces the President of the United States.
The song was also played at the US Capitol during his 2006 funeral, and the Michigan Marching Band greeted the former President one final time at Gerald R. Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids, Michigan, playing "The Victors" in front of teary-eyed mourners.
One of the most recognizable fan interactions in all of college football is the sight of over 108,000 fans raising a clenched fist on ear recitation of the word, "Hail!"
For its history, its fan devotion and involvement, its uniqueness, and status as the historical fight song from the winningest college football program in the land, "The Victors" earns the top spot in the top 15 college football fight songs.
Grand Valley State
USC—too repetitious and overplayed (same four bars after every single first down gets annoying after about two minutes).
Oklahoma—same complaint as USC.
Georgia—The Battle Hymn of the Republic? Really?
North Carolina State—The Caissons Go Rolling Along is a great song to sing...if you're in the Army.
The plethora of schools that use "Down the Field" or a variation thereof.