Ten of the best traditions in college football


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We love college football for the rivalries, the smack-talk among conferences, the bigger-than-life coaches and the arguments about who has the best team. But most of all, we love traditions.

Fans tailgate in the same spot, they wear the same clothing, they say the same things, they sing the same songs and they do all of it because, well, they’ve done it for as long as anyone can remember.

So as we near the opening of college football, we decided to take a look at 10 great college traditions.

Script Ohio

A tradition that goes back to 1936, then-Ohio State band director Eugene Weigel based the Ohio script design from the marquee sign of the Loew’s Theater in Columbus from the 1920s and 30s. It was first performed on Oct. 24, 1936 in a game the Buckeyes won against Indiana 7-0. It has been performed ever since.

The dotting of the “i” in Ohio is done by fourth- or fifth-year sousaphone player. But a few hand-picked folks not involved with the band have done it, most notably comedian/actor Bob Hope in 1978, former Buckeyes coach Woody Hayes in 1983, pro golfer Jack Nicklaus in 2006, former astronaut John Glenn and his wife Annie in 2009, band director Jon R. Woods (who was retiring) in 2011 and former Ohio State coach Earle Bruce in 2016. 

Rolling Toomer’s Corner

 

Like any good tradition, there is dispute on when this started exactly and why. What we do know is that Toomer’s Drugs has been in business on the corner of College Street and Magnolia Ave. since 1896. It was started by “Shel” Toomer, who played on Auburn’s first football team in 1892.

The “rolling” of Toomer’s Corner supposedly began at the turn of the century when Toomer’s drugs had the only telegraph in town and kept everyone updated on football games being played out of town. When Auburn won, drug store employees would throw ticker tape from the telegraph over the power lines.

Then, there’s the story of Terry Henley, a running back on Auburn’s 1972 team, who promised before a game against top-ranked rival Alabama that the Tigers would “We’re going to beat the No. 2 out of Alabama.” Auburn ran back two blocked punts for touchdowns in the final six minutes of that game to beat the Crimson Tide and fans responded by throwing toilet paper into the trees.

March On

Before kickoff of every Army-Navy game, the entire Corps of Cadets and Brigade of Midshipmen take the field in their dress uniforms.

There are more than 9,000 Cadets and Midshipmen who march on to the field. They line up in tight rows and columns. They march with every movement rehearsed and perfect coordination, from the distance of their step to the arc and travel in the swing of their arms. They take the field, and stay until all are there, then march off in the same order.

The Grove

There’s tailgating, then there’s The Grove. The 10-acre spot on Ole Miss’ campus, a serene, tree-lined quiet space during the week, turns into a wild party scene on game days.

It began in the 1950s, with Ole Miss fans driving their cars and trucks and RVs into The Grove. At that time, the Rebels, coached by Johnny Vaught, were one of the top teams in the SEC and had a huge fan following. After Vaught retired and the team fell on hard times, the crowds only grew at The Grove. 

Since a bad storm in 1991, vehicles have been banned, and now tents fill the spot each week. While no formal numbers have released, it has been estimated that more than 100,000 people hit The Grove each week.

Running through the “T”

In 1965, second-year Tennessee football coach Doug Dickey was in the process of rebuilding a football team that had fallen on hard times after the retirement of famed coach Bob Neyland in 1952. 

Dickey approached band director Dr. WJ Julian about an idea for the team to run through the band, while it was forming a “T”, from the locker rooms on the east side of the stadium to the sideline on the west. The first time they did it was against Army on Sept. 18, 1965.

With stadium renovations, the locker rooms were moved and now the teams from out from the north end of the stadium. It has become almost as big of a draw as the game for fans, who make sure they’re seated before the team comes out.

Sooner Schooner

Most of the time, traditions are started because something good happened.
The Sooner Schooner didn’t get off to such a good start. In its first appearance, Sept. 26, 1964, Oklahoma lost to Southern California 40-14. But all was forgiven and it eventually became the school’s official mascot in 1980. 

An all-male student spirit squad called the RUF/NEKS ride and handle the schooner. It is pulled by Welsh ponies, originally Shetland ponies, which are named Boomer and Sooner in recognition of settlers of Oklahoma.

After a touchdown, the schooner makes a loop around the field, driving the crowd into a frenzy.

Midnight Yell

At midnight before game day, more than 25,000 people show up at Texas A&M’s Kyle Field and sing The Aggie War Hymn and listen to stories about how the Aggies are going to beat the next day’s opponent.

It’s a tradition that dates back to 1931, when a group of freshmen cadets gathered on the steps of the YMCA building at midnight to practice yells (what Texas A&M calls it’s cheers). Midnight Yell begins when the yell leaders lead the the marching band, current students and alumni into the stadium. Once there, the yell leaders lead the crowd in yells dating back to more than 100 years.

Cowbells

Only at Mississippi State can you have a tradition with no official start date, that involves a cow and has nothing to do with the school mascot. Welcome to what opponents feel like is the most obnoxious tradition, the constant ringing of the cowbells.

Nobody knows when it officially started, but it appears to have come on to the scene sometime between 1939 and 1942, during a stretch that the team went 34-5-2, the best in school history. One story has it that during a game against Ole Miss, a cow wandered on to the field, and because Mississippi State won, the students viewed it as a good luck charm. The story goes that the students brought the cow back to the game for a few years, then decided just to bring the cow bell. By the 1950s, everyone was bringing cowbells to games. 

Your first cowbell has to be given to you, then you can buy any others to add to your collection.

Howard’s Rock

Howard’s Rock was gift to Clemson coach Frank Howard from Samuel C. Jones, a friend who brought it back from Death Valley, Calif. sometime around 1965.  At first, the coach used as a door stop. Cleaning out his office in the summer of 1966, Howard told Gene Willimon, a Clemson booster, to throw the rock away. Instead, Willimon put it on a pedestal in the east end zone of the stadium, a place the players ran by on the way to the field. 

In the first game after it was placed there, Clemson beat Virginia after they came back from 18 points down to win. In 1967, Howard started using the rock as motivation, telling the players to rub it as they ran down the hill from the locker room to the field. They beat Wake Forest the first time he wanted them to do that, and the tradition was on.

Ralphie’s Run

The first time a buffalo made an appearance on the football field before a Colorado game was in 1934, just a few weeks after Buffaloes was picked as the nickname. Although there were sporadic appearances, the tradition of Ralphie running across the field didn’t begin until the homecoming game against Oklahoma State on Oct. 28, 1967.

At first, the buffalo’s name was Ralph. Then, when it was pointed out that Ralph was a she, the name was changed to Ralphie (there have been five Ralphies, all have been female). Five handlers run with Ralphie before opening and second-half kickoffs. She is so popular that in 1971, she was named homecoming queen.

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