Isn’t college football great?
Like few other sports, it brings together youthful energy, team spirit, regional loyalties, athletic prowess, old school ties and bragging rights into an amazing mix.
Now add the secret sauce — game day traditions that can bring down the house and even coax a sentimental tear or two from the toughest of fans.
What’s your favorite college football game day ritual? Does it involve music like Virginia Tech or Wisconsin? Large galloping animals like Colorado or Florida State? Perhaps it involves the marching band like Tennessee or Ohio State. Maybe it’s altogether different, like Iowa’s.
These sporting traditions add color, zest and welcome familiarity to America’s fall Saturdays. What are your favorites? We’ve singled out a few of ours. See how they match up with yours.
White Out – Penn State University
Thank goodness the football isn’t white! You’d never see it flying through the air during one of Penn State’s famous White Out games. Once each year, Penn State officials designate a White Out game against a top opponent. Fans are asked to — yes, you guessed it — dress in all white. It’s an intimidating sight for opposing teams to be greeted by a howling, white blizzard of 107,000 Beaver Stadium spectators. The effect at night is even more spellbinding.
Sword Plunge – University of Southern California
This tradition asks the drum major of the famed USC Marching Band to take center stage, dressed in ancient Troy’s battle regalia. At midfield, the drum major plunges his sword into the turf with a Hollywood flourish, signaling it’s game time to cheering USC fans. Add the prancing white steed Traveler — number nine in a mascot lineage that goes back over 60 years — and you have the makings of one of the nation’s most durable gameday traditions.
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Push-Ups – University of Oregon
Pity the University of Oregon’s mascot, Puddles, whenever there’s a blowout win by the Ducks at Autzen Stadium. Puddles is obliged to perform a push-up for every point the Ducks score. The fans love it, of course. Puddles? Maybe not so much. Imagine the ordeal Puddles faced when the Ducks set a school record scoring 81 points in this year’s season opener. That’s one arm-weary mascot!
The Haka – University of Hawai’i
Twenty minutes before home and away games, the University of Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors football team perform the fearsome-looking Haka, a traditional dance of the Māori people of New Zealand. The dance is a tribute to the school’s and state’s Polynesian roots and performed as a pre-game and post-game (provided they win!) ritual. The chant used by the team is native Hawaiian and dates back centuries.
Ralphie’s Run – University of Colorado
The University of Colorado Buffaloes have Ralphie, a female buffalo (in truth, a bison), as an authentic 1200-pound mascot. Each home game, the fans of Folsom Field can expect Ralphie’s thunderous and exciting U-shaped charge around the playing field as game time approaches. At least five trained handlers are required to chaperone Ralphie on her ceremonial rush, now in its 57th season.
Sooner Schooner – University of Oklahoma
Meanwhile, 544 miles away in Norman, Oklahoma, the University of Oklahoma stages its own racing routine with a replica of a Studebaker Conestoga wagon. The wagon is energetically pulled to Gaylord Memorial Stadium’s midfield by a pair of ponies named Boomer and Sooner. After each score, Boomer and Sooner do their best to delight of the home crowd. Sometimes the ponies’ galloping enthusiasm is tough to contain, as it was during a 2019 game, causing an unexpected wagon tumble.
The Wave – University of Iowa
A comparatively recent tradition (2017), the Wave has attracted wide national attention for its heartfelt display of kindness and warmth. Call it Iowa Nice. Between the first and second quarters at Kinnick Stadium, the entire crowd — including both football teams — set aside the game for a dramatic wave to the children’s research hospital next door. It’s touching recognition to the children and hospital staff looking on from the hospital. As Hawkeye’s long-time football coach, Kirk Ferentz says, “That’s where the real heroes are.”
The 12th Man – Texas A&M
There aren’t many schools that claim traditions honored for over a century. The Aggies’s storied 12th man legacy is one. The origin goes back to a game in the 1920s when the team played a game with no one on the reserve bench. A basketball player was summoned from the stands to serve as a player substitute. Today that spirit of “readiness, desire, and enthusiasm” is a school hallmark. So much so, a statue of that selfless student volunteer now greets visitors to Kyle Field.
Jump Around – University of Wisconsin
The music group House of Pain never imagined their 1992 hit “Jump Around” would be indelibly identified as a college gameday tradition. But it has, as any Camp Randall Stadium visitor — especially opposing teams — can verify. When the song is played at the end of third quarter, the Wisconsin Badger faithful go bonkers in jump-to-the-beat frenzy. Our congratulations to the University of Wisconsin on the 25th anniversary of this earsplitting tradition.
Running through the T – University of Tennessee
You can’t say the Volunteers football team doesn’t know how to make an entrance. To the 102,000 fans standing in heightened expectation, the electrifying entrance of their beloved team onto the Neyland Stadium playing field may be the best in the SEC Conference. Give credit to the U of T Marching Band for forming the gigantic T the players dash through on their way to Saturday game day destiny. And don’t forget the blaze of orange coloring nearly everything.
Dotting the I – The Ohio State University
What college football fan hasn’t been thrilled to witness the pomp, ceremony and breathtaking precision of the Buckeye’s 225-member Marching Band forming Script Ohio to the toe-tapping, “Le Regiment de Sambre et Meuse”? The halftime drama occurs in the dotting of the “i” in Ohio, an honor typically reserved for a senior sousaphone player. On occasion, the distinction goes to a prominent Ohioan, such as Bob Hope, John Glenn and Jack Nicklaus.
Enter Sandman – Virginia Tech
Crazy. Delirious. Frenzy. All may be apt words to describe the temporary insanity that pervades Lane Stadium just before the Hokies football team takes the field. The song “Enter Sandman” from the rock group Metallica has been the team’s pre-game anthem since 2000. It’s an earthshaking moment when the tune plays and all 66,233 attendees start jumping. Literally earthshaking: It has set off the school’s seismograph multiple times. Most recently, just before the 2021 North Carolina game. Now that’s rock and roll.
Check out some other famed college football anthems to keep the good times (and luck) rolling.
Fear the Spear – Florida State University
Cue the video! For sheer spectacle, it’s tough to top the sight of the Native American warrior, Osceola, come thundering into Doak Campbell Stadium on the majestic warhorse, Renegade, to plant a flaming spear at midfield. While some may question the appropriateness of the ceremony, it’s all officially endorsed by Seminole Nation leaders. It’s pure theatre, and Seminole fans love the pageantry — a game day tradition since 1978.
No collection like this can do justice to all the great gameday traditions. There are so many more, equally worthy of inclusion here. The key thing is to continue to look forward to your favorite ones throughout the college football season on DIRECTV!
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