Ranking the Top 50 College Football Fight Songs
Is there anything quite as stirring as strolling across campus on an autumn afternoon, slowly making your way through the crowds to the blessed stadium, all while you hear the strains of a collegiate band calling you closer?
Yes, the university band is the font of spirit music that stirs our souls, fires our passions and musically embodies and then releases our zealousness.
The college fight song has been around since the mid 1880s and has served as a means of exuberant celebration ever since.
Perhaps what makes people so fervent in their love for their school’s fight song is its delicious association with first downs, turnovers, long returns, blessed touchdowns and the result of all these combined...college football victories.
Yes, in the throes of hallowed triumph we sing our song proudly, arm in arm with our compatriots in a celebration that even words cannot properly express.
The following slideshow ranks the best of the best in terms of the top 50 collegiate fight songs. Though everyone’s favorite spirit sonata is their own, it’s difficult not to appreciate each and every one of these musical calls to arms.
No. 50: The Bells Must Ring
Few schools can compete with Rutgers in terms of steeped tradition, and the tie to college football is fairly obvious with Rutgers being the birthplace of college football by virtue of hosting Princeton for the first-ever game back in 1869.
"The Bells Must Ring" refers to the bells in Rutgers’ Old Queens Tower that have rung since 1766 to mark important events in the history of the university.
“Keep Rutgers colors to the fore
For they must win so fight, fight, fight!
And we'll advance some more to score,
The Rutgers flag flies high tonight, alright, alright
We'll fling the Scarlet Banner out,
And Rutgers men will fight, fight, fight, fight, fight;
The bells of Queens each victory shout
The bells of Queens must ring tonight.”
No. 49: The Sons of Westwood
Though "Mighty Bruins" is played after every UCLA touchdown, "The Sons of Westwood" serves as the official fight song for UCLA.
The tune was taken from Cal’s secondary fight song "The Big C," which was originally composed by Harold P. Williams in 1913 but wasn’t adapted and renamed as the UCLA fight song until sometime in the 1950s.
Cal was obviously outraged at UCLA’s song poaching, and the ensuing lawsuit ended when it was ruled that "The Big C" was never copyrighted and was therefore public domain.
"The Sons of Westwood" is notable for calling out one in-state (and crosstown) rival but does not mention Cal, from whom it pinched the tune.
“Bruins roam the hills of Westwood,
By the blue Pacific shore,
And if by chance they see a man from USC,
Every Bruin starts to roar.”
No. 48: Co-Ed Fight Song
Hawaii’s fight song has probably undergone the most interesting and total transformation of any spirited number on our illustrious listing.
The melody of the "Co-Ed Fight Song" is directly from the march "Co-Ed," which was published by J.S. Zamecnik in 1914.
Though the lyrics of the now-Hawaii song have come a long way from the original prose of “Here’s to the girl in college, and to her charming ways, here’s to the girl of knowledge, pride of our student days,” it all translates into a great piece of “rah rah” harmony.
“Here's to our dear Hawai'i.
Here's to our Green and White.
Here's to our Alma Mater.
Here's to the team with fight.”
No. 47: Oskee Wow Wow
Illinois’ fight song scores a unique trifecta that sets it apart from other spirited compositions: its unusual name, its calling out of two specific rivals and the mention of a U.S. President.
Yes, "Oskee Wow Wow" (written in 1911 by Illini students Howard Green and Harold Hill) takes aim at Princeton and Wisconsin and then goes right over the top by comparing the fame of the Illinois football squad with President Theodore Roosevelt.
“Old Princeton yells her tiger, Wisconsin her Varsity.
And they give the same old 'Rah-rah-rah!' at each university.
But the yell that always thrills me, and fills my heart with joy
Is the good old Oskee-Wow-Wow that they yell at Illinois.
Teddy Roosevelt may be famous, and his name you often hear.
But it's heroes on the football field each college man holds dear.
We think with pride of Roberts, Artie Hall and Heavy, too.
Oskee-Wow-Wow for the wearers of the Orange and the Blue!”
No. 46: On, On, U of K
What makes Kentucky’s spirit song unique is the fact that it is a football-skewed production that represents what is predominately a basketball school.
Sure, Kentucky fields a gridiron team in the daunting SEC, but when you think of the Wildcats and championships, basketballs—not pigskins—go flying through your mind’s eye.
“On, on, U of K, we are right for the fight today,
Hold that ball and hit that line;
Ev'ry Wildcat star will shine;
We'll fight, fight, fight, for the blue and white
As we roll to that goal, Varsity,
And we'll kick, pass and run, 'till the battle is won,
And we'll bring home the victory.”
No. 45: The Air Force Song
Originally dubbed "The Army Air Corps" song, what is now known as the "The Air Force Song" was penned in 1939 by Robert MacArthur Crawford just before WWII.
The song is commonly referred to as "The Wild Blue Yonder" and represents not only the Academy but the entire branch of the military now known as the Air Force.
The full version of the song features four verses of rollicking lyrics. Among the best lines:
“Minds of men fashioned a crate of thunder,
Sent it high into the blue;
Hands of men blasted the world asunder;
How they lived God only knew! (God only knew then!)”
Though it might be a stretch to say that Air Force’s fight song is the pinnacle of traditional football prose, it’s hard to argue the allure of its patriotic and historical significance.
No. 44: The Fighting Gamecocks Lead the Way
In a historical twist that is easy to appreciate, "The Fighting Gamecocks Lead the Way" is based on a Broadway number, and the lyrics were penned by South Carolina coach Paul Dietzel (1966-74, 42-53-1).
The song replaced "Carolina Fight Song" and was introduced at the 1968 game against Virginia Tech which USC dropped 17-6 on its way to a 4-6-0 record.
The good news is that the song’s first official season came in 1969, when the Dietzel-led ‘Cocks went 7-4 and won the ACC.
The piece definitely has a show tune quality to it and finishes with the sort of flourish that could absolutely include some feathered dancers. But yelling “Go Cocks!” intermittently serves notice that this is ultimately a Class A football fight song and not a bedazzled dance number.
“Hey, Let's give a cheer, Carolina is here,
The Fighting Gamecocks lead the way.
Who gives a care, if the going gets tough,
And when it is rough, that's when the 'Cocks get going.”
No. 43: Cougar Fight Song
With music and lyrics by Marion Ford and Forest Fountain (both U of H graduates), the Houston Cougars' fight song might be as under-appreciated as their on-field gridiron squad.
It’s not lengthy, it’s not full of outdated yet delicious phrases and it’s not particularly historically significant. But boy does it sound good...really good!
“Cougars fight for dear old U of H
For our Alma Mater cheer.
Fight for Houston University
For victory is near.
When the going gets so rough and tough
We never worry 'cause we got the stuff.
So fight, fight, fight for red and white
And we will go to victory.”
At the end of the day, maybe it should say something about passing yards.
No. 42: Ten Thousand Men of Harvard
"Ten Thousand Men of Harvard" is the preferred fight song of the Harvard football team (and the spirit song most played by the university band), and it was inked by A. Putnam, who graduated in 1918.
The song’s first verse looks to be completely written in Latin, but in reality it is meant to be a pun and is penned in a form that actually mocks Latin.
The opening line “Illegitimum non carborundum” has origins in early WWII British intelligence, and it’s loosely interpreted to mean “don’t let the bastards get you down.”
“Ten thousand men of Harvard want vict'ry today,
For they know that o'er old Eli
Fair Harvard holds sway.
So then we'll conquer all old Eli's men,
And when the game ends, we'll sing again:
Ten thousand men of Harvard gained vict'ry today!”
Yeah, it’s a school for really smart people, but it’s hard to argue eight national titles earned from 1875 to 1919.
No. 41: Go, Vandals, Go
A favorite among fight song enthusiasts, "Go, Vandals, Go" was submitted by Idaho freshman J.M. O’Donnell in a contest to select a new school fight song.
It’s pretty easy to listen in and find what critics like about "Go, Vandals, Go," which starts strong, sports a catchy tune with a comfortable pace and finishes with a flourish.
“Came a tribe from the North, brave and bold
Bearing banners of Silver and Gold
Tried and true, to subdue all their foes
Alternate lyrics are along the lines of, “Came a tribe from the hangar-shaped Kibbie Dome...”
No. 40: Fight for California
Though Cal fans have a bunch of songs to choose from ("The Big C" is another tasty option), "Fight for California" is the official school fight song and dates back to 1906.
The traditional-sounding tune of this spirit offering is from the "Lights Out March" written by Earl Elleson McCoy. The lyrics were penned by Robert N. Fitch, who graduated from Cal in 1909.
"Fight for California" is a lyrical gold mine but has one bit worth further highlighting:
“Stalwart girded for the fray
Will strive for victory
Their all at Mater's feet will lay
That brain and brawn will win the day.”
Where else can you get “girded” and “Mater” all in the same song? Seriously, that’s amazing.
No. 39: Hail, West Virginia
One of the nation’s top “Hail” songs, "Hail West Virginia" has a feeling that is uniquely its own and borders on total jubilation in an almost carnival fashion. It’s upbeat but not rushed and celebratory in a way that’s difficult to define.
The song dates back to 1915, when West Virginia graduates Earl Miller and Ed McWhorter composed the music and Frank B. Deem created the classic lyrics that may do the best job of amplifying the college spirit of any song on our lengthy list.
“Let's give a rah for West Virginia
And let us pledge to her anew,
Others may be black or crimson,
but for us it's Gold and Blue.
Let all our troubles be forgotten,
Let college spirit rule,
We'll join and give our loyal efforts
For the good of our old school.
It's West Virginia, It's West Virginia
The Pride of every Mountaineer.
Come on you old grads, join with us young lads,
It's West Virginia now we cheer!
Now is the time, boys, to make a big noise
No matter what the people say,
For there is naught to fear; the gang's all here,
So hail to West Virginia, Hail”
As a side note, the reference to “black and crimson” in line three is thought to allude to Washington and Jefferson College in Pennsylvania, who the Mountaineers played regularly from 1891 to 1935. WVU holds a 12-20-2 disadvantage in the all-time series.
No. 38: Fight Raiders Fight
Credited to Carroll McMath, "Fight Raiders Fight" was originally penned as "Fight Matadors Fight," which was officially Texas Tech’s mascot until the Red Raider was adopted in 1936.
"Fight Raiders Fight" is a juicy number that quite literally oozes with the spirit of a great football people (oh yes, I’m a homer). The accents provided by the staccato pauses that flow beautifully with the lyrics and stirring “guns up” motions are the stuff of which goosebumps, throat lumps and misty eyes are made.
Wreck ‘em boys!
“Fight, Raiders, Fight! Fight, Raiders, Fight!
Fight for the school we love so dearly.
You'll hit'em high, you'll hit'em low.
You'll push the ball across the goal,
Tech, Fight! Fight!
We'll praise your name, boost you to fame.
Fight for the Scarlet and Black.
You will hit'em, you will wreck'em.
Hit'em, Wreck'em, Texas Tech!
And the Victory Bells will ring out.”
No. 37: Hail to Pitt
An up-tempo affair deluxe, "Hail to Pitt" was composed and written by Pittsburgh graduates Lester Milton Taylor (1912) and George M. Kirk (1913) and debuted at the university in 1910.
The lyrics are extensive and deserve to be listed in their entirety, as the wording takes us back to the alluring “days of yore” with gems such as “Hooperay” and “alleghenee genac.”
“Down in Smokytown, in Pennsylvania,
In Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh,
We've a University we're all proud of,
She stands a mighty fortress 'neath her colors bright,
When forth she goes to battle 'gainst a stubborn foe
This song will upward go:
Hail to Pitt, hail to Pitt every loyal son!
Hail to Pitt, hail to Pitt 'til the victory is won!
The gold and blue shall wave forever
On high through fair and stormy weather;
We'll sing her praises far and wide
Until the end of time!
Hooperay, hooperay for dear old U-N-I;
We'll give a grand old alleghenee, genac, genac, genac
We'll wave and cheer for many a year
And sing our songs out loud and clear
For our university.”
No. 36: Forward Rebels
Forward Rebels is about as catchy as a little tune as you’ll find in all of college football. You’d be hard pressed to find a melody that meshes more suitably with its lyrics than does Ole Miss’ spirit song.
Also known as "Rebel March," "Forward Rebels" is performed by Ole Miss’ band the “Pride of the South.”
"Rebels you’re the Southland’s pride,
Take that ball and hit your stride,
Don’t stop ‘till the victory’s won,
For your Ole Miss
Fight for your Ole Miss.”
No. 35: Go U Northwestern
"Go U Northwestern" is one of the most audibly pleasing songs of the bunch, and the brassy bridge in the middle of the song is simply stellar.
Written in 1912 by Northwestern band member Theodore Van Etten, the song premiered in the ’12 season finale against Illinois, a game that the Wildcats won 6-0, marking their first win over the Illini since 1904.
Though Northwestern may not be the beacon of Big Ten football, its fight song is as rousing as any, and it’s no surprise that the tune is so widely used by high schools and other institutions across our great land.
“Go! U Northwestern!
Fight for victory,
Spread far the fame of our fair name,
Go! Northwestern win that game.”
No. 34: Tiger Rag
Also known as the “Song that Shakes the Southland,” Clemson has used "Tiger Rag" as its fight song since 1942.
The piece itself is a jazz standard that dates back to 1917, when it was copyrighted by the Original Dixieland Jazz Band. It is also used as a secondary spirit song by other schools with a Tiger mascot such as Memphis, LSU, Missouri, Princeton and Auburn.
The “jingle from the jungle” is as catchy as they come, and it is self-described as being “written in a syncopated way” (a direct quote from the piece), which means to displace the beats or accents so that strong beats become weak and vice versa.
What is mildly surprising to the musically illiterate is the fact that the adaptation of the song doesn’t have even a whisper of jazz influence (at least to the untrained but eager ear).
“Long ago way down in a jungle
Someone got an inspiration for a tune
And that jingle from the jungle
Became famous mighty soon.”
No. 33: Tech Triumph
So, you were looking for a true football call to arms. Well, my friend, look no more. Virginia Tech’s masterpiece "Tech Triumph" is everything you could possibly want in a fight song.
A military lead-in, a festival of sounds and tempo and lyrics that are too delicious not to read twice, "Tech Triumph" is almost a case of school spirit overload.
Written by a member of the Virginia Tech band (Wilfred Pete Maddux, class of 1920) and his hometown neighbor Mattie Eppes (Boogs) from Blackstone, VA, the song made its debut before the V.P.I. (Virginia Polytechnic Institute, aka Virginia Tech) and Washington & Lee football game in 1919 (the Hokies lost the game 3-0 but went on to enjoy a 5-4 record).
"Tech Triumph" touts one of the best names of a fight song in our top 50 and has some truly succulent lyrics. The highlights are as follows:
“Techmen, Oh, Techmen, we're out to win today,
Showing pep and life with which we're trying;
Just watch our men so big and active
Support the Orange and Maroon. Let's go Techs.
We know our ends and backs are stronger,
With winning hopes, we fear defeat no longer.”
“Fight, men, oh, fight, men, we're going to be the champions
Adding to our list another victory;
Football or baseball, the games in which we star,
They're the sports which made old VP famous.
Just watch our men so big and active, our ends and backs are stronger...”
It’s like a recruiting slogan!
No. 32: Every True Son/Fight Tigers
Missouri’s fight song "Every True Son" draws on the melody of "It’s A Long Way to Tipperary" to come up with what is a fine example of collegiate fight composition (which is also the tune that Oregon uses in its masterpiece "Mighty Oregon").
The video clip included here includes "Every True Son," some stirring Tiger chants and then "Fight Tigers," which combine to make perhaps the best triple-combination punch in the business.
The lyrical highlight of Missouri’s harmonious trifecta is from "Every True Son":
“When the band plays the Tiger war song,
And when the fray is through,
We will tramp, tramp, tramp, around the columns,
With a cheer, for Old Mizzou!”
Yes, tramping should only be done after the fray, never before.
No. 31: Fight CU
Though often preceded by the playing of the older standards "Glory, Glory Colorado" and "Go Colorado," "Fight CU" is the official fight song of the Colorado Buffaloes.
"Fight CU" was originally sung by the football team, and its simplicity shouldn’t overshadow the fact that it packs a well-spirited punch.
“We’ll roll up a mighty score.
Never give in!
Shoulder to shoulder we will
Fight, fight, fight!”
How can you not like “shoulder to shoulder”?
No. 30: Minnesota Rouser
Another opus that was composed as an entry to a contest to find a new fight song, "Minnesota Rouser" was written in 1909 by a Methodist/Episcopal choir director by the name of Floyd Hutsell.
If some old school cheers mixed with a rousing traditional feel is what you’re looking for, the search stops here. Minnesota’s musical tribute to its Golden Gophers offers all that plus more.
“Minnesota, hats off to thee!
To thy colors true we shall ever be,
Firm and strong, united are we.
Rah, rah, rah, for Ski-U-Mah,
Rah! Rah! Rah! Rah!
Rah for the U of M.
Yay, Gophers! RAH!”
No. 29: Fight for LSU
Though LSU has at least three notable spirit songs, the official tune is "Fight for LSU," which is played when the team takes the field or earns points by kicking or by converting a two-point attempt after a touchdown.
Though it might sound like just one more “rah rah” composition, this is actually a super fight song with one of the best finishes of any song in the country.
The lyrics themselves stir the soul with “knights of purple gold,” but perhaps the most prophetic bit is as follows:
“We are the strongest,
We are the bravest
Football team in history”
Yeah, yeah, we watched the game last weekend, and OK, your song is right.
No. 28: Iowa Fight Song
One of a trio of spirited songs used by the University of Iowa, "Iowa Fight Song" dates back to 1951, when Meredith Wilson (who also wrote "The Music Man") penned this collegiate classic.
Iowa’s musical call to arms is simple, but it represents what is truly spectacular about college football: passion, unity and spirit.
This is a classic.
“The word is Fight! Fight! Fight! for IOWA,
Let every loyal Iowan sing;
The word is Fight! Fight! Fight! for IOWA,
Until the walls and rafters ring (Rah! Rah!)
Come on and cheer, cheer, cheer, for IOWA
Come on and cheer until you hear the final gun.
The word is Fight! Fight! Fight! for IOWA,
Until the game is won.”
No. 27: For Boston
Some claim that Boston College’s "For Boston" is the oldest fight song in the nation, as its roots stretch all the way back to the 19th century, when T.J. Hurley (member of the class of 1885) wrote the spirited piece.
The song also has the distinction of being recorded by punk rock band Dropkick Murphys in 2001, a version that is also used at football games.
Though the original lyrics have been somewhat watered down due to the need to modernize in the 1980s, you can still appreciate the “old-school” feel with lines such as these:
“For Boston, for Boston,
‘Tis Wisdom’s earthly fane.
For here all are one
And their hearts are true,
And the towers on the Heights
Reach to the Heav’ns own blue.”
Ah yes, the fane...the earthly fane.
No. 26: The Cavalier Song
Though Virginia hasn’t been an ACC front-runner in quite some time, "The Cavalier Song" is nothing short of stellar.
Whether it’s the snare drum kicking it hard, the heavy beat of the march-like tune itself or the spirited chant-ridden ending, this is one hell of a fight song.
The piece came to life as an entry to a 1923 contest to find a new fight song and was penned by Lawrence Haywood Lee Jr. and Fulton Lewis Jr.
“Once more our might has won the fight;
We gain the victor’s due.
And all men raise their voice to praise
The orange and the blue.
So, through the years, like Cavaliers,
We’ll shout Virginia’s name!
It e’er shall be on land and sea
A sign of might and fame.”
I think this is the only song other than Navy’s "Anchors Aweigh" that takes its tune to the sea.
No. 25: Rocky Top
Though "Down the Field" is officially the fight song of the University of Tennessee, "Rocky Top" is the most well-known Volunteers spirit song.
"Rocky Top" was written by Felice and Boudleaux Bryant in 1967 and was made famous first by the Osborne Brothers and then by a little lady called Lynn Anderson.
Tennessee began using the song in a marching band form at the 1972 Alabama game, a contest that the Volunteers lost 17-10 on their way to a 10-2 record under then-coach Bill Battle (the other loss was to Auburn).
“Wish that I was on old Rocky Top
Down in the Tennessee hills.
Ain't no smoggy smoke on Rocky Top
Ain't no telephone bills.
Once I had a girl on Rocky Top
Half bear, the other half cat,
Wild as a mink, but sweet as soda-pop
I still dream about that.”
Seriously, I bet you would still dream about a girl that was half bear and half cat...or perhaps you wouldn't be able to sleep.
No. 24: I’m a Tar Heel Born
Regardless of this being is a college football list, leaving North Carolina’s iconic fight song out of the rankings would be criminal.
Yes, UNC is certainly an institution of higher basketball learning, but "I’m a Tar Heel Born" is one of the best ditties in all of sport.
The song dates back to the 1920s, when it was used as a tag at the end of "Hark the Sound," which serves as the school’s alma mater.
The final three lines of “rah rahs” are substituted with a myriad of different phrases dependent on the opponent and time of year, but examples range from “Go to Hell State” and “Go to Hell Duke” to the ever-popular “Clemson Sucks!”
"I'm a Tar Heel born, I'm a Tar Heel bred.
And when I die, I'm a Tar Heel dead.
So it's rah-rah, Car'lina-'lina!
Rah, rah, rah!"
How serious is this song? Well, if you are still a fan when you are dead and your death is actually classified as a “Tar Heel” passing, well, that’s serious.
No. 23: FSU Fight Song
Perhaps the only fight song on our list to be adapted from an original poem, Florida State’s musical call to arms was penned by student Doug Alley and first appeared as prose in the Florida Flambeau (the school newspaper, which also garners some props for a fabulous name).
FSU professor of music Tommy Wright read the poem and was inspired to compose music to go along with the words.
The song debuted in 1950, and maybe the best part of the story is that Wright swapped the rights for the song to Florida State for season tickets, which is yet another tribute to the passion-driven power of college football.
The included video clip is actually of Tommy Wright conducting the Florida State band playing his contribution to the history of collegiate fight songs.
“You got to fight, fight, fight for FSU!
You got to scalp 'em Seminoles!
You got to win, win, win, win this game and
Roll on down to make those goals!
For FSU is on the warpath now,
and at the battle's end she's great.
So fight, fight, fight for victory,
the Seminoles of Florida State!
FLORIDA STATE!! FLORIDA STATE!! FLORIDA STATE!!
No. 22: Arkansas Fight
Written in 1918 by Edwin Douglass, "Arkansas Fight" is a classic example of a spirit composition which rightly rouses Razorback fans everywhere.
Simple lyrics and timeless tones don’t hide the fact that this is a legendary fight song.
“On your toes, Razorbacks,
To the finish,
Carry on with all your might!
For it’s A-A-A-R-K-A-N-S-A-S
Fight! Fight! Fi-i-i-ight!”
I’m personally digging the “on your toes bit.”
No. 21: I’m a Jayhawk
Local tradition dictates that Kansas fans clap along to "I’m a Jayhawk" rather than sing the lyrics, which is actually a bit of a shame due to the specific call-out of the entire conference (the song has actually been revised several times to account for shifts in conferences—Big 8, Big 12, Big 12 with 10, etc.).
"I’m a Jayhawk" was composed and written by George “Dumpy” Bowles in 1912, and the version below came before the most recent revision that was done when Colorado and Nebraska bolted the conference.
Frankly, this is another classic that earns an edge over much of the field by virtue of its truly marvelous beat and feel.
“Talk about the Sooners, the Cowboys and the Buffs,
Talk about the Tiger and his tail,
Talk about the Wildcat, and those Cornhuskin' boys,
But I'm the bird to make 'em weep and wail.
'Cause I'm a Jay, Jay, Jay, Jay, Jayhawk
Up at Lawrence on the Kaw
'Cause I'm a Jay, Jay, Jay, Jay, Jayhawk
With a sis-boom, hip hoorah.
Got a beak that's big enough to twist the Tiger's tail.
Husk some corn and listen to the Cornhusker's wail.
'Cause I'm a Jay, Jay, Jay, Jay, Jayhawk,
Riding on a Kansas Gale.”
Them gales just aren’t easy to catch.
No. 20: The Orange and the Blue
Florida’s traditional fight song dates back to the early 1920s, and George Hamilton is generally credited as the original author.
The piece is strikingly spirited, and even though it is absolutely a product of a past era, its pace and composition are timeless.
“So give a cheer for the Orange and the Blue, Waving for-ev-er,
Forever pride of Flor-i-da, May she drop nev-er.”
Yes, let’s give a special shout-out to “never drooping” because, well, it’s the right thing to do.
No. 19: On, Wisconsin
Written in 1909 by William T. Purdy, "On Wisconsin" is precisely the straightforward, old school-type musical banner you would expect the tradition-rich Badgers to carry to represent their formidable school.
The background of the masterpiece is almost as storied as the Badger football program. The song was originally entered as a candidate for the search for a new school song at Minnesota and was withdrawn and used instead by the author’s alma mater...Wisconsin.
The reference to Chicago in line three of the excerpt below has since been modernized but originally paid tribute to the Badgers' rivalry with the University of Chicago, which was an original member of the Big Ten when it was formed in 1896 and didn’t drop out until 1940.
The two schools met 40 times in football with Wisconsin holding a 19-16-5 advantage in the all-time series.
“On, Wisconsin! On, Wisconsin!
Plunge right through that line!
Run the ball clear 'round Chicago
A touchdown sure this time (U rah rah)
On, Wisconsin! On, Wisconsin!
Fight on for her fame
Fight! Fellows! - fight, fight, fight!
We'll win this game.”
No. 18: Bow Down to Washington
Written by Lester Wilson in 1915 as an entry for a contest seeking a new fight song, "Bow Down to Washington" may not blow you down with musical wizardry, but it certainly is in the running for being the most confident song in our rankings.
With lyrics such as “Heaven help the foes of Washington, they’re trembling at the feet of mighty Washington” and “Bring the Golden Bear, from his mighty lair, for we’re goin’ to hang his carcass in the Northland,” Husky swagger oozes from this spirited number.
The song made its premiere at the Washington vs. Cal game in 1915, which the Huskies won by a lopsided score of 72-0 on their way to a perfect 7-0 season under coach Gil Dobie (which really goes a long way in explaining the self-assured tone of the piece).
“Heaven help the foes of Washington,
They're trembling at the feet of might Washington.
The boys are there with bells,
Their fighting blood excels,
It's harder to push them over the lines Than pass the Dardanelles.
Victory the cry of Washington.
Leather lungs together with a Rah! Rah! Rah!
And o'er the land our loyal band
Will sing the glory of Washington forever.”
The “Dardanelles” refers to a narrow strait that separates Turkey from the Balkans and is treacherous to cross historically and climatically; apparently “leather lungs” helps a crossing in this instance.
No. 17: Texas Fight
"Texas Fight" represents the epitome of musical jabs in that its entire foundation is basically a poke at the Longhorns' in-state rival Texas A&M.
The tune is an amped-up version of the sad military standard "Taps" (which is directed towards the Aggies' "Farmers Fight" song, which utilizes the same song at a different speed), and then the lyrics go on to ridicule the A&M war hymn, which bids “goodbye to Texas University.”
"Texas Fight" was brought to fruition by Colonel Walter S. Hunnicutt and James E. King. It was Hunnicutt who purportedly stated that he wrote the song to "counteract the songs and yells of the Texas Aggies, which were not too complimentary to our Student Body and some of which tended to ridicule 'The Eyes of Texas.'"
That sums up the proverbial “other side of the story,” which is that Texas A&M’s fight song pokes fun at Texas’ alma mater, "The Eyes of Texas." The Aggies song actually says it “sounds like hell.”
Yes, the seemingly imminent loss of a regular series between the two schools is indeed a huge loss.
“Texas Fight! Texas Fight!
And it's goodbye to A & M.
Texas Fight! Texas Fight!
And we'll put over one more win.
Texas Fight! Texas Fight!
For it's Texas that we love best.
Hail, Hail, the gang's all here,
And it's goodbye to all the rest!”
No. 16: War Eagle
Yes, it’s Auburn’s battle cry, it’s their high-flying numbered bird and it is the name of their fight song.
Replacing "Auburn Victory March" in the late 1950s, "War Eagle" was written by Robert Allen and Al Stillman from New York City.
Not only is "War Eagle" played when the Tigers score a touchdown, it is also “rung” daily at noon by the Samford Carillon, which is in the clock tower of Auburn’s Samford Hall.
Now that’s cool.
“Give ‘em hell, give ‘em hell,
Stand up and yell, hey!
War Eagle, win for Auburn,
Power of Dixieland!”
I like the pace of this one, and it’s difficult not to get all amped up after you hear it played. Where else in the world can you hear “give ‘em hell” rung on a bell?
War. Damn. Eagle.
No. 15: The Aggie War Hymn
In what is a linguistic triumph, "The Aggie War Hymn" was written by Texas A&M alumnus and WWI veteran J.V. “Pinky” Wilson and is a compilation of various Aggie yells, cheers and songs.
The focus on beating University of Texas is unmistakable (even though there is another verse that is slanted towards beating other opponents), and words like “hullabaloo,” “caneck” and “chigaroogarem” make Texas A&M’s "War Hymn" a uniquely Aggie-esque contribution to fight song lore.
You can say what you want about the old Ags, but they are as spirited a bunch with a mindful eye towards tradition as is any fanbase in the nation.
It’s just too bad they’re leaving an in-conference rivalry with the Longhorns far behind.
“Rough, Tough, real stuff Texas A&M Good bye to Texas University
So long to the orange and the white Good luck to dear old Texas Aggies
They are the boys who show the real old fight 'the eyes of Texas are upon you'
That is the song they sing so well
Sounds Like Hell
So good bye to Texas University
We're gonna beat you all to Chigaroogarem
Rough, Tough, Real stuff, Texas A&M
Saw varsity's horns off Saw varsity's horns off
Aaw varsity's horns off
Varsity's horns are sawed”
No. 14: Boomer Sooner
Penned by Arthur M. Alden in 1905, "Boomer Sooner" is a combination of two other collegiate fight songs, "Boola Boola" from Yale and "I’m a Tar Heel Born" from North Carolina.
Regardless of the borrowed nature of its origins, Boomer Sooner is iconic and as catchy and spirited as any on this list, even though it’s difficult for the opposing fan to stomach when the Oklahoma band plays the number over and over again when the Sooners are racking up an obscene number of points.
Yes, it’s that chuck wagon crossing the field, and though they weren’t the first to say it...when they die, they’re “Sooner dead.”
“Boomer Sooner, Boomer Sooner,
Boomer Sooner, Boomer Sooner,
Boomer Sooner, Boomer Sooner,
Boomer Sooner, O-K-U!
I'm a Sooner born
And a Sooner bred,
And when I die
I'll be Sooner dead.
Rah, Oklahoma! Rah, Oklahoma!
Rah, Oklahoma! O-K-U! “
No. 13: Ramblin’ Wreck from Georgia Tech
Based on "Son of a Gambolier" (1885), which draws its words from a Scottish drinking song, the first documented appearance of "Ramblin’ Wreck at Georgia Tech came in 1908.
Purportedly, the term “ramblin’ wreck” refers to motorized vehicles that Georgia Tech engineers concocted while working in remote areas of South America in the late 1800s.
The video included here features the Georgia Tech band playing "White and Gold" as a lead-in to "Ramblin’ Wreck."
The lyrics to the song itself are as colorful as any of those on this magnificent listing.
“I'm a Ramblin' Wreck from Georgia Tech, and a hell of an engineer—
A helluva, helluva, helluva, helluva, hell of an engineer.
Like all the jolly good fellows, I drink my whiskey clear.
I'm a Ramblin' Wreck from Georgia Tech and a hell of an engineer.
Oh! If I had a daughter, sir, I'd dress her in White and Gold,
And put her on the campus to cheer the brave and bold.
But if I had a son, sir, I'll tell you what he'd do—
He would yell,'To hell with Georgia!' like his daddy used to do.
Oh, I wish I had a barrel of rum and sugar three thousand pounds,
A college bell to put it in and a clapper to stir it round.
I'd drink to all the good fellows who come from far and near.
I'm a ramblin', gamblin', hell of an engineer!”
“And a clapper to stir it round”—nothing says “GO TEAM” quite like that!
No. 12: Mighty Oregon
If "The Mighty Oregon March" sounds familiar, then you are probably thinking back to another popular march called "It’s a Long Way to Tipperary," which was written in 1912 and became hugely popular during WWI (the same tune is also used by Missouri for its fight song "Every True Son").
"Mighty Oregon" was compiled by band director Albert Perfect (try growing up with that name) and student DeWitt Gilbert and first debuted at Oregon in 1916.
The thing that strikes me when I listen to "Mighty Oregon" is how important it sounds, almost as if weighty affairs of state are being decided as we proudly sing our great song...I love that because to some of us, football is that important.
“Oregon, our Alma Mater
We will guard thee on and on
Let us gather round and cheer her
Chant her glory Oregon
Roar the praises of her warriors
Sing the story Oregon
On to victory urge the heroes
Of our mighty Oregon!
Go Ducks Go!
Fight Ducks Fight!
Win Ducks Win! “
“Roar the praises of her warriors”—I wish I had said it first!
No. 11: Anchors Aweigh
Even though "Anchors Aweigh" unofficially represents the entire naval branch of the military, it was originally written as a football march to use when the Naval Academy hit the gridiron.
The music was composed by Lieutenant Charles A. Zimmerman, who was then the bandmaster at the Academy. The lyrics were written by Midshipmen Alfred Hart Miles, who graduated from Navy with the Class of 1907.
The song was first played at the 1906 Army vs. Navy game wherein the Midshipmen upended the Knights 10-0, sealing an 8-2-2 record and their first win over Army since 1900.
"Anchors Aweigh" has gone through numerous revisions lyrically, but it remains a jolly, patriotic and marvelous seafaring tune that is timeless.
“Anchors Aweigh, my boys, Anchors Aweigh.
Farewell to foreign shores, We sail at break of day, of day.
Through our last night on shore, Drink to the foam,
Until we meet once more. Here's wishing you a happy voyage home!”
No. 10: Fight On
USC’s masterpiece "Fight On" sounds more like a production number than an old school fight song, but you can’t deny the fact that this is among the most epic pieces of spirit music ever composed.
"Fight On" was the winner of a student spirit competition in 1922 and was penned by then-dental student Milo Sweet, who Trojans everywhere owe a debt of gratitude for what is a tremendous school song.
If you aren’t convinced that this is a blockbuster composition, consider the legend that "Fight On" was played to spur troops on in the Pacific theater of WWII.
“Fight On for ol' SC
Our men Fight On to victory
Our Alma Mater dear,
looks up to you
Fight On and win
For ol' SC
Fight On to victory
No. 9: Fight On, State
Another total classic, "Fight On, State" embodies Penn State’s old-school football fanaticism, which, regardless of your own affiliation, is a thing of beauty.
Composed in 1915 by Joe Saunders, "Fight On, State" has a zooming personality that slows down briefly for reflection and provides a few precious moments to savor the flavor.
The lyrics are fabulous, but what tickles my fancy is, “Victory we predict for thee,” which is every true fan’s charge...away with the naysayers, be gone pessimists and long live the delusional and dyed-in-the-wool college football fan!
“Fight on State, Fight on State,
Strike your gait and win.
Victory we predict for thee,
We're ever true to you, dear old
White and Blue.
Onward, State, Onward, State,
Roar, Lions, Roar!
We'll hit that line, roll up the score,
Fight on to victory evermore,
Fight on, on on, on, on,
Fight on, Penn State!”
No. 8: Dear Old Nebraska U
Though "Hail Varsity" is played after the Cornhuskers score a touchdown, "Dear Old Nebraska U" (aka "There is No Place Like Nebraska") is played after extra points and at the end of each game.
Though neither seems to be the “official” fight song, both are good enough to be at the top of this list.
"Dear Old Nebraska U" is a rollicking affair that was purportedly penned by Harry Pecha, who graduated from Nebraska in 1924.
This one oozes with spirit, and it’s easy to see how this song could make you literally flail yourself about in the throes of victory.
"There is no place like Nebraska,
Dear old Nebraska U.
Where the girls are the fairest,
The boys are the squarest,
Of any old school that I knew."
I have always personally preferred the squarest boys, I think.
No. 7: Hail to Georgia
Though "Glory, Glory" is Georgia’s rally song (and thought by many to be the school’s official spirit music), the honor of being the official school fight song belongs to "Hail to Georgia," which was inked by Gaines W. Walter, who graduated from the University of Georgia in 1915.
The song was copyrighted in 1931, and though its lyrics aren’t widely known, they are classic and embody the type of fortitude, devotion and ardor you’d expect from the tradition-rich Bulldogs.
It’s as spirited a mixture of lyrics and melody as you’re going to get.
“Hail to Georgia down to Dixie!
A college honr’d fair, and true;
The Red and Black is her standard, proudly it waves,
Streaming today and the ages through.
She’s the fairest in the Southland
We’ll pledge our love to her for aye;
To that college dear we’ll ring a cheer,
All hail to dear old UGA!”
No. 6: MSU Fight Song
Adapted by Michigan State cheerleader Francis Irving Lankey and Arthur Sayles, the "MSU Fight Song" dates back to 1915 and is based on a hymn called "Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus."
The result of Lankey and Sayles' musical craftsmanship is commendable, and the song has the feel of weighty importance combined with an absolutely alluring tempo and flow that is hard to beat.
Of the lyrical genius are included some of these standout lines:
“Its specialty is winning
And those Spartans play good ball.”
“See their team is weakening,
We’re going to win this game.”
Seriously, who doesn’t want to think those exact thoughts when they watch their team on the field of honor?
No. 5: On, Brave Old Army Team
Legend has it that Lieutenant Philip Egner conjured up the tune for "On, Brave Old Army Team" while walking across the West Point campus in 1910.
Egner’s obvious inspiration was the Army teams of the past (little did he know that the team would go on to win five national titles from 1914 to 1946), and he purportedly jotted down his brainstorm on his cuff so he could remember it upon arrival at his destination.
Like the "Air Force Song" and "Anchors Aweigh," "On, Brave Old Army Team" does far more than represent a college football team. It acts as a rallying cry for a brave group of men and women serving all over the world and also evokes the valorous memory of those who came before them.
“On, brave old Army team!
On to the fray.
Fight on to victory.
For that’s the fearless Army way.”
It’s hard to beat that.
No. 4: Yea Alabama
Penned by engineering student Ethelred Lundy Sykes as an entry in a contest for a new fight song conducted after Alabama beat Washington 20-19 in the 1926 Rose Bowl, "Yea Alabama" is as iconic and as stirring as any composition on our list.
Other than specifically calling out Georgia Tech and Georgia (which you have to love), one of the best snippets in the lyrics is as follows:
“And if a man starts to weaken, that’s his shame:
For Bama’s pluck and grit have writ her name in Crimson Flame.”
Aren’t you glad they wrote this stuff in 1926 rather than 1986 (when it would have had cowbells ringing in the background)?
No. 3: Notre Dame Victory March
This is probably the only fight song on our list that was the work of two brothers. Yes, "Notre Dame Victory March" was penned by Notre Dame graduates and kindred kin Reverend Michael J. Shea (1905) and John F. Shea (1906 and 1907).
Though the haters will no doubt hate it and the lovers will herald as the greatest song in the history of the world, somewhere in between the two we reach the truth of that matter: This is a classic and highly iconic number that packs a traditional and stirring punch.
“Cheer, cheer for old Notre Dame,
Wake up the echoes cheering her name,
Send a volley cheer on high,
Shake down the thunder from the sky.
What though the odds be great or small
Old Notre Dame will win over all,
While her loyal sons are marching
Onward to victory.”
No. 2: Buckeye Battle Cry
Yet another fight song that was born of a contest, "Buckeye Battle Cry" was Frank Crumit’s winning entry in the 1919 race to find a new spirit tune to mark the opening of the new Ohio Stadium.
From what is one of the best beginnings of a song on this entire list, featuring a full measure of serious drumming, all the way to the final bars, this is one of the most excellent spirit sonatas on our list.
It’s proud, it’s easy to see how the words are supposed to fit in and it has the perfect pace to produce goosebumps (especially if you like to wear a nut necklace).
“In old Ohio (Columbus) there's a team
That's known throughout the land
Eleven warriors brave and bold
Whose fame will ever stand
And when the ball goes over,
Our cheers will reach the sky
Ohio Field will hear again
The Buckeye Battle Cry!”
Seriously, those are amazing lyrics. Way to go, Frank, way to go.
No. 1: The Victors
Perhaps the most iconic of all the college football fight songs, "The Victors" (often referred to as "Hail to the Victors") was penned by Michigan student Louis Elbel, who was suitably inspired by the Wolverines' narrow 12-11 victory over Chicago in 1898 that closed out a perfect season and secured Michigan’s first-ever Big Ten title.
Regardless of your school or conference affiliation, this tantalizing composition is hard to beat. It totally tops our illustrious list, which now heralds Michigan as the champion of our musical spirit sweepstakes.
“Hail! to the victors valiant
Hail! to the conqu'ring heroes
Hail! Hail! to Michigan
The leaders and best!
Hail! to the victors valiant
Hail! to the conqu'ring heroes
Hail! Hail! to Michigan,
The champions of the West!”