10 Awesome College Football Traditions

There’s nothing else like college football. The pride. The rivalries. The showmanship. The tailgates. The games. The polls. The bowls. The bragging rights. And to top all of this revelry, college football adds a little something extra that elevates game day excitement even higher — the traditions.

Every school has a tradition that sets them apart. Many of these traditions are legendary, almost bigger than the game itself. Some are awe-inspiring; others are just plain fun. No matter what, there’s a tradition for everyone. Which is the best? The one from your school, of course.

Picking the best one is impossible. Picking 10 is even crazier. But we’re Americans and we love lists — and the debates they create. So here are 10 of our favorite college traditions:

Cowbells – Mississippi State. A tradition so loud and raucous, opposing schools have asked for it to be banned. Next time you attend a game in Starkville, grab a long-handled maroon and white cowbell and join in on the noise.

Jump Around – Wisconsin. One of college football’s newest traditions is also one of the most popular. Since 1998, Wisconsin students have been jumping around to the House of Pain track between the 3rd and 4th quarters at home games. In 2003, the school decided not to play “Jump Around” during the first home game of the season. But after an outcry, petitions and assurances from structural engineers, it soon returned to Camp Randall Stadium.

Play Like A Champion/Gold Helmets – Notre Dame. As the Fighting Irish head out their locker room before every home game, each player slaps the sign above the doorway, directing them to “Play Like A Champion Today.” After wins, the team salutes the student section by raising their gold helmets in the air. The helmets are painted with a mixture that include actual 24k gold.

War Eagle Flight – Auburn. This tradition began 1930, and has taken place every year since 1960. Auburn is home to an untethered eagle as a game day mascot, based upon the “War Eagle” battle cry and legend. As part of the pre-game festivities, the eagle takes flight, circles the stadium and lands on the field.

Sooner Schooner – Oklahoma. A scaled-down, red and white Conestoga wagon pulled by two white ponies (Boomer and Sooner) and driven by a member of an all-male spirit team takes the field after every Oklahoma score. The wagon pays homage to Oklahoma’s earliest settlers who were known as “Sooners.”

Howard’s Rock/Run Down the Hill – Clemson. “Give me 110% or keep your filthy hands off my rock.” Legendary Clemson coach Frank Howard’s old doorstop has become part of one of college’s most popular traditions. Before each game, the Tigers gather around the rock — perched atop a hill in the east side of the stadium — and touch it (committing their 110% effort) before running down to the field.

Yell Leaders/12th Man – Texas A&M. In College Station, Aggies fans don’t cheer — they yell. These yells are led by “Yell Leaders” — five students elected by their classmates. Before games, there is Yell Practice or Midnight Yell. During games, the Yell Leaders and band once again lead the student body in these yells. The Aggie fans — known as the 12th Man — are represented by a walk-on player who wears the number 12 jersey and participates in kick-offs.

Florida vs. Georgia in Jacksonville. The Florida Gators and Georgia Bulldogs don’t agree on much — not even when this rivalry started. But they do agree to settle said rivalry in Jacksonville, Fla., every season. The game often has bowl game implications and always has the Okefenokee Oar and bragging rights up for grabs. Of course, the pre-game festivities are also legendary at The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.

Flaming Spear/Tomahawk Chop – Florida State. In this pre-game tradition, approved by the Seminole Tribe of Florida, an FSU student dressed as Chief Osceola rides his spotted horse, Renegade, to the 50-yard line. Once there, he plants a flaming spear into the turf as the 82,000+ faithful chant and perform the tomahawk chop. The noise is deafening; the spectacle, amazing.

Dotting the “i” – Ohio State. The Ohio State University Marching Band has redefined the halftime show with their unparalleled formations (like a moonwalking Michael Jackson, or a Tyrannosaurus Rex eating the competition) and showmanship. But their most famous formation is “Dotting the ‘I.’” Each time the band spells out a script ‘Ohio,’ a fourth- or fifth-year sousaphone player runs out above the lower case “i” and dots it.

— P.J. Butland