The 50 Greatest Traditions in College Football
College football and tradition go hand in hand. In fact, college football itself is a part of some of the biggest traditions in American society come fall and winter. There are thousands of special circumstances, events, routines and honors that make college football such a special sport to many fans, coaches, families and players alike.
Today, we're counting the top 50 greatest traditions around the country in college football. I learned a great deal in researching for this, and now I have even more affection for college football. It truly is special.
I'm sure your favorite program has a wealth of traditional customs around it, so come see where they landed on the list as well their arch rivals.
Here we go.
50. Georgia Tech's Ramblin' Wreck
Georgia Tech's Ramblin Wreck actually goes back to the 1920s, yet it only became truly into play during the 1960s.
The official mechanical mascot for the Yellow Jackets' program, story has that Dean Floyd Field has his beloved Model T looked over by a couple student mechanics, and they decided to overhaul it in 1926. In '61, Tech got a new ride and it leads the team onto the field every game.
49. Tennessee's Vol Navy
In Knoxville, there is a sea of Volunteer fans that line up in their boats along the Tennessee River before each Tennessee home game.
It started in 1962, when former Vol broadcaster George Mooney got tired of battling traffic and took his boat to Neyland Stadium for a game. Great tailgating.
48. Big Bertha at Texas
Slightly overshadowed by the big bass drum at Purdue, you still can't deny Big Bertha in Austin. Texas is a special program and she's a huge part of the Longhorn allure.
Colonel D. Harold Bird bought her from the University of Chicago in 1955, and she's been at every Texas home game since.
47. Oregon Duck's Motorcycle
Oregon took some heat in the middle 20th century from Walt Disney about their mascot looking a bit too similar to Donald Duck.
Once known as Puddles, the school and Disney worked out a deal. Today, he leads the Ducks football squad onto the field on a Harley for every game in Eugene.
46. USC and UCLA Home Uniforms in Crosstown Showdown
Credit Pete Carroll and Rick Neuheisel for being pro-retro. In 2008, Carroll asked Neuheisel if he wanted to go old school have both teams in home uniforms for the USC-UCLA game.
The tradition restarted in 2008 after 26 years of having the visiting team wear away jerseys.
45. Ohio State's Carmen Ohio
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In 1902, Ohio State loss to arch rival Michigan, and Fred Cornell was annoyed on the train back to campus. He took the Spanish Chant and Yale's Bright College Years and birthed Carmen Ohio.
The song came to fruition in 1906, and and now after a home game for the Buckeyes, fans, coaches and players gather to sing it.
44. Paterno-Ville at Penn State
In 2005, Ohio State and Penn State were gearing for a collision in the Big Ten that had the Nittany Lions hosting the Buckeyes. Many onlookers learned of Paterno-Ville when they turned on the game and saw a sea of tents camped out near the stadium.
Yet it started in 1993, and really was a result of PSU changing student seating to a first-come, first-served basis. So the students started camping out before games to make sure they got in to see the football team play.
43. Hawaii's Haka
A Maori war dance, before every game, the Hawaii football team aligns and does a Polynesian traditional dance called the "Haka" that signifies that they are ready for combat.
The NCAA has imposed penalties on the program for performing the dance, yet it is part of the heritage of the school, and they will always continue to do it.
42. USC's Tommy Trojan Pre-Game Sword Plant
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You go to a USC home game at the Coliseum and you sit in the stands. Right before the game starts, you notice the band is blasting Conquest and on comes Tommy Trojan to the field.
He's a carrying a big sword, and right in the middle of the field, he ceremoniously plants the sword right in the grass, thus marking the field as Trojan territory. Great tradition.
41. West Virginia's Take Me Home Country Roads
John Denver penned a classic here in Take Me, Home Country Roads, which is automatically beloved in West Virginia.
In 1971, right after Denver released it, the Mountaineers adopted the song as its official theme song, and you can now hear it at every home game.
40. Tennessee's Smokey
1953 came, and Tennessee was looking for a new mascot. It decided to hold a contest and Brooks' Blue Smokey howled, and the contest was over.
Since then, you can find Smokey wherever the team plays.
39. Boise State's Smurf Turf
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Once known as "that one team that plays on a blue field," today, the Broncos are one of the prime programs in college football. They've earned their respect by the way it should be earned: winning.
Started in 1986, the Broncos still play on the "Smurf Turf" til this day, where it serves as a spectacle in itself.
38. Misssippi's State's Cowbells
The Cowbells at MSU got so annoying and well known that the SEC outlawed them in 1974. But they made a return in 2010.
What happened to start the frenzy was a cow wandered onto the field during a MSU game. The Bulldogs won, and everyone thought it was good luck. So now fans brings bells and some even bring cows to Bulldog games.
37. Ralphie the Buffalo at Colorado
First of all, for some reason, I always thought Ralphie was a male, but I learned she is all female. Her lap around the field began in 1967 and continues to this day.
Weighing well over 1,200 pounds, she races around the field for Colorado to get the crowd going and promotes school spirit.
36. South Carolina's "If It Aint Swayin', Then We Aint Playin'"
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You'll hear Gamecock fans and players state this ever so often. It started when Joe Morrison made a comment swaying he thought the top deck of Williams-Brice Stadium was "swaying" when the Gamecocks beat USC years ago.
Called "The Cockpit," Williams-Brice is among the loudest places to play in college football.
35. Tailgaiting in Lake Washington
Very similar to the Vol Navy with Tennessee, the Washington Huskies have a similar tradition. Fans rally outside Husky Stadium in boats by almost a thousand on Saturdays in the Great Northwest.
It has become very common for fans to make a weekend trip out of the tailgating experience, camping out in their boats outside the stadium Friday-Sunday.
34. Texas A&M's "Aggie War" Hymn
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The song was brought on by Texas A&M school brass in 1920. It is a variation of Goodbye to Texas University, written by J.V. Wilson.
Today, it is considered one of the best official fight songs in college football.
33. Notre Dame's Golden Helmets
You know your program is big-time when the football squad gets a fresh shine on their gold helmets after every game. Nicknamed the "Golden Domers," Notre Dame's all-gold helmets are a staple of college football.
There is a staff devoted to just this task, as they have been known to bask the helmets in gold flakes. Honest.
32. Big Bass Drum of Purdue
The World's Largest Drum, officially, the Boilermakers beat Texas to the punch in 1921. The Longhorns forever claimed their drum was bigger and were challenged by the Boilermakers to have a measurement contest to settle this once and for all.
Texas backed out. Winner: Boilermakers.
31. Texas' Bevo
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But Texas does boast having Bevo at their games. Alumni of the school decided to buy it in 1916 and gave Bevo its name at its first game.
Yet, in 1919, the football banquet served Bevo. No, not like the team fed Bevo, more like Bevo was fed to the team, and Texas found caring for Bevo was too expensive and Bevo was too good of beef to be on display.
30. Florida State's Chief Osceola
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Chief Osceola was an actual Seminole warrior, and he actually was from Tallahassee. He grew to fame in the 1800s and legend has it he was a force to be reckoned with in combat.
Now, Florida State has him an unofficial mascot and he throws a flaming spear into the grass at midfield, which electrifies both the FSU team and fans alike before games.
29. Arkansas' "Woo Pig Sooie"
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The story goes that sometime in the 1920s a group of farmers were pretty stoked about the Razorbacks football team and came to the game trying to root the team to victory.
It became known as the "Calling of Hogs" and has been one of customs of the program ever since. Fans and players yell it out anytime, anywhere.
28. Penn State's White Out
A bit more rising in recent times, Penn State fans flock to Nittany Lion home games in all white. It's only about six or seven years old and was meant for just students.
But the rest of the stadium quickly caught on to the idea, and now it's the norm for all 107,000 fans to pack the stadium in all white.
27. Alabama's Rammer Jammer Hammer
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Sure, we all know that Alabama has the "Roll Tide" rallying cry, yet they also have the chant of "Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer."
It started in the 1920s, named after the Rammer Jammer, which is the school newspaper, along the the Yellow-Jammer, the official state bird of Alabama.. But Tide fans only bust out the chant when victory is clear in sight.
26. A Sea of Red in Nebraska
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The thing about Memorial Stadium is it routinely breaks capacity of the supposed 81,000 it's supposed to carry. The Cornhuskers attract fans in droves and all come to see Big Red in all red.
Cue Sirius by The Alan Parson Project. Cue Cornhusker fans going crazy. Cue Nebraska football.
25. The Grove at Ole Miss
Oh yeah, the Rebels get classy with it when it comes to tailgating. The fans all hook up at The Grove and do it right. Good food. Good fun. Good times.
What other tailgating event do you where people come decked out in formal attire, Grown 'N' Sexy? Ole Miss does it nice at The Grove. Throw on your scooby-doo's and a nice button up, tack on a suit-coat and some slacks.
24. Army vs. Navy
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This game has become special over the recent years, as our nation has been at war. Yet, as the last game of the season, we pay our respects to our Armed Forces by watching the annual Army vs. Navy game.
It usually is the final regular season game of the college football season, and really, the entrance on to the field is quite amazing. "The Cadet March" is a tradition that is the prime allure of the game, as each academy marches their cadets onto the field in military formation and shows out, then proceeds to march to their seats to take in the game.
23. Mike the Tiger at LSU
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OK, this may be a bit over the top for me, because at least Texas and Colorado have mascots that don't, you know, eat people.
But LSU brings out Mike the Tiger at their games and has him and his nearly 500-pound frame on the sidelines. So yeah, you score on LSU at Death Valley, Mike may be waiting for you in the end zone.
The tradition started in 1934.
22. Ohio State Helmet Buckeye Leaves
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This tradition goes back to 1967 and 1968 when the Buckeyes switched to silver helmets. Woody Hayes started rewarding players for making big-time plays with Buckeye leaf stickers that the players placed on their helmets.
Today, it is a staple tradition of the program, and there is actually a formula to gaining one. It really is a big deal at Ohio State.
21. California's "Tightwad Hill"
California Memorial Stadium is built near an earthquake fault line, is old, creaky, needs renovation and is just gorgeous.
Cal's campus is great, and the stadium is cool, too. Students and fans who don't wish to pay for entrance—or just want to hang out—flock up to "Tightwad Hill" and watch the game on a hill that looks down onto the field.
20. UGA at UGA Games
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I admit that I think Mike the Tiger at LSU is a bit cooler than UGA, but I have UGA ranked ahead of Mike because UGA has some family history to him.
It started in 1943 at the Rose Bowl when a Georgia alum bought the English Bulldog to the game in a win over UCLA. The original UGA passed away in 1954, and Sonny Seiler had the grandchild (or grand-dog?), take its place. The Seilers have been responsible for caring for every UGA since then.
19. The Sooner Schooner of Oklahoma
Dating back the 1960s, the Schooner Schooner really didn't become official with Oklahoma until 1980.
Settlers took these kinds of wagons on the trail on their way to Oklahoma. The Schooner is pulled by two very gorgeous white horses named Boomer and Sooner.
You'll see it rolling across the field after each OU touchdown.
18. The Gator Chomp
USC does the "V for Victory," while Florida State has the Tomahawk. Florida has the "Gator Chomp," and it is the sign that you are in Gator territory.
It started with the Florida marching band calling it "Gator Jaws," and it was done by the band to the Jaws theme song. Now it's done by Florida fans to every song, almost every minute during home games in Gainesville.
17. Song Girls of USC
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Some fans come to USC games to see the Trojans play and root them to victory. But many of them will tell you, off-record, that they are there to watch the Song Girls. If you hate USC, you likely still like the Song Girls, who date back to the '67 season.
They're hot. There, I said it. You know it. I know it. We all do. I think I'm going to go a USC game this fall, to really...see the Trojans play. Yeah. That's it.
16. Running Through the "T" at Tennessee
I think a big part of football is the on-field entrance. When I played, and to this very day, there is no feeling that can match the rush you get from running onto the field with thousands of fans going nuts to cheer you on.
Tennessee's on-field entrance of running the "T" made by the Pride of the Southland is one of the coolest on-field entrances ever.
15. Auburn's Toomer's Corner
Toomer's Corner is the corner in downtown Auburn that signifies you are in the midst of campus and downtown. It has two big oak trees that are a staple of not only the program, but the South.
The corner is flooded during Saturdays in the fall, as fans await the players walking down the street on their way to the stadium.
Sadly, the oak trees were poisoned by an Alabama fan earlier this year and likely will die in the coming years.
14. USC's Traveler
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For those of you do not realize this, Tommy Trojan, the dude dressed up like a Trojan who carries that sword at USC games, is not the Trojans mascot. Traveler, the white horse, is.
Not until 1961 was Traveler officially accepted as the mascot for the Trojans, but all of the riders of the horse are USC alumni. Every time the Trojans score, Traveler rides around the field.
13. Saturday Night Home Games for LSU
A coach once called this place, "the worst place to play in the country for a visiting team." The coach, you ask? Bear Bryant.
The Tiger fans are loud, over the top and uber-passionate during Saturday night home games. In 1931, the Tigers started playing home night games on a whim, but noticed the revved up attendance.
Today, it's one of the most intimidating experiences for an opposing team.
12. The Red River Rivalry
Played at the historic Cotton Bowl, this is one of the flagship games of every college football season. Texas and Oklahoma usually are among the top programs not only within the Big 12, but nationally.
The Cotton Bowl gets split right down to the five-yard line with fans from both teams, and the Longhorns and Sooners get it on on the field every fall, usually with Big 12 and national title implications at stake.
11. Dotting the "I"
Dating back to 1936, dotting the "I" of the The Best Damn Band in the Land is am honor of college football. The Script Ohio started doting the "I" and taking pride in it in the 1930s, and today, it has has some very well known people serve as honorary "I"-dotters.
Jack Nicklaus, Buster Douglas, Woody Hayes and Bob Hope to name a few.
10. The World's Largest Cocktail Party
Here's one of the big time staples of college football. When Florida and Georgia play, fans flock to what is known as "The World's Largest Cocktail Party."
More than half a million, yes half a million, fans come to Jacksonville, where the game is played, for some tailgating. And yeah, lots of cocktails.
9. Tailgating at LSU Games
The only thing more better than the atmosphere at LSU home games is the food during the tailgating. Gumbo, jambalaya and an array of other Cajun and Creole dishes are served all around the stadium.
Passionate fans. Good food. Football. What more could you ask for at a college football game?
LSU has it all.
8. Michigan's Fight Song, "The Victors"
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The only problem I have with Michigan is when I watch their games. After it's over, I have the tune of The Victors stuck in my head for days. It's catchy and awesome.
Some say it's the best fight song ever written. Ohio State says it's crap. Whatever you wanna call it, just know it's one of the staple traditions of college football.
7. Auburn's War Eagle
War Eagle has been debated whether the legend of it is true or not, but Auburn fans do not care; it's part of the main allure of the program.
War Eagle II was bought in the 1930s and was the first real-live mascot for the Auburn program. War Eagle VII circles the stadium and lands at midfield before the start of every Auburn home game.
6. Miami's Smoke Entrance
Sure, there are many other teams that use the whole smoke thing, but really, they all just copied the Hurricanes' style.
It started in the 1950s when Bob Nalette wanted to create a buzz and rev up more fans. So he started using fire extinguishers, and it became a staple with Miami football.
When The U rose to prime prominence in the 1980s, the smoke entrance was one of the main thoughts that entered your mind when you thought about Miami football.
5. Texas A&M's "12th Man"
I've gotten word that if I want to go watch the Aggies play at home, at Kyle Field, I need to train for it. Yes, train my legs to watch a football game. Crazy, right?
That's because most of the Aggie fans stand for the entire game, cheering Mike Sherman's boys on. It started in 1922, when an Aggie coach called E. King Gill to be the 12th man for the then-shorthanded Aggie football squad.
Gill never got in the game, but stood on the sidelines the entire game. Fans stand today in honor of him.
4. Wisconsin's "Jump Around"
I first got word about this when I was interning with the Cleveland Browns and another intern explained it all to me, as he was a former graduate assistant coach at Wisconsin. It usually goes down between the third and fourth quarter, and the 80,000 plus at Camp Randall await the horns.
Once the horns of House of Pain's Jump Around come on, the stadium goes into a frenzy. When the song revs up and everyone literally starts jumping around, the stadium rocks.
3. Virginia Tech's "Enter Sandman" Entrance
I told you I'm big on on-field entrances, and this one gives me goosebumps. The Hokie players walk down perhaps one of the longest and darkest tunnels known to mankind. It really makes you focus and prepare to play while you're walking down it.
The fans are waiting for them, and it gets eerily quiet around the stadium. All of a sudden, Metallica's Enter Sandman starts playing, and the entire stadium starts doing the "Blacksburg Bounce."
Once the song really revvs up, Frank Beamer leads the Hokies onto the field and the crowd goes nuts. Classic.
2. Notre Dame's Touchdown Jesus
In 1963, Millard Sheets painted a mural on the southern side of the Hesburgh Library at Notre Dame. It's officially known as the "World of Life" mural.
If you don't know what I'm talking about, then let me simplify it for you: I'm talking about Touchdown Jesus. It's a gorgeous painting that almost gives Notre Dame a divine advantage.
1. Notre Dame's "Play Like a Champion Today" Sign
As I said before, there is something cherished and sacred during the pregame portion to a football game. Notre Dame's iconic sign that reads "Play Like a Champion Today" is one of the most iconic traditions in all of sports, let alone college football.
Lou Holtz saw the wording in a book about Notre Dame football, and in 1986, had the sign made. He had it placed as the players come down the stairs to go onto the field at Notre Dame Stadium.
The players slap it, pledging to do what the sign says, and head into the tunnel to take the field.