College Football Traditions
College football traditions across the nation create a wave of school spirit and pride in fans
College football is a crucial aspect of student life at many schools across the nation. Football season for some schools is a way of life, and brings a college community together through tailgates, jam-packed stadiums, and time-honored traditions. While each school has unique rituals surrounding a big game, some are louder, larger, and get the football crowd on their feet more than others.
In honor of last weekend’s Superbowl festivities, here are some of the most spirited college football traditions from around the country.
University of Toledo Touchdown Cannon, Toledo, Ohio
For the University of Toledo, the beginning of each home game, start of each quarter, and every touchdown are celebrated with a mighty “boom.” Toledo’s Touchdown Cannon has graced football games at the Ohio school since 1953 when the Phi Kappa Pi fraternity first used it during home games, and the Toledo Rockets’ tradition is well known to competitors.
Originally opened as an arts and trades school, Toledo is now a public research university with approximately 23,000 students. With strong programs in science and engineering, students are exposed to research opportunities and co-op programs throughout their undergraduate career.
Florida State University “Sod Games”, Tallahassee, Florida
Since 1962, the Seminoles have retrieved sod from fields where FSU is victorious as the underdog, playing rival University of Florida, in conference championships, and in bowl games. The tradition began before FSU was set to play the University of Georgia in 1962 when professor Dean Coyle Moore challenged the team to “Bring back some sod from between the hedges at Georgia.” FSU went on to beat Georgia 18-0, and fulfill Moore’s request. There is now a “Sod Cemetery” at FSU with plaques and sod from FSU’s past victories.
Located in Florida’s capital city, FSU is a large public university that is also a space-grant and sea-grant institution. Known as the “Berkeley of the South” in the turbulent 1960s, this research-oriented has a history of vigilant student activism.
University of Wisconsin-Madison Fifth Quarter, Madison, Wisconsin
Win or lose, Wisconsin commemorates the end of each game with the Badger Band’s Fifth Quarter. Band members walk out on the field, face the winning team’s fan section, and play their school song. They then do the same for the losing team, and follow each salute with a 15-minute or more performance of such fan favorites as “On Wisconsin” and “You’ve Said It All”. For fans that stick around, the band exits to “Varsity” complete with dancing and a crowd sing-along.
With an enrollment of over 42,500 students, the University of Wisconsin – Madison is the oldest and largest public university in the state. As one of the leading research universities in the nation, UW–Madison is the founding member of the Association of American Universities, an organization dedicated to maintaining research initiatives in education.
University of Pennsylvania Throwing Toast, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
One of the most unique traditions in college football takes place at Penn, where students show their support for the Quakers by throwing pieces of bread onto Franklin Field at the end of the third quarter. When alcohol was banned from the stadium in the 1970s, students began this creative and non-alcoholic way to “toast” their football players and the ritual has occurred at every home game since. During a good game, up to 30,000 pieces of toast can be thrown onto the field.
The University of Pennsylvania is a private school located in Philadelphia and was founded in 1740 by Benjamin Franklin. Part of the Ivy League, Penn is one of the most selective schools in the nation and was the first university to have both undergraduate and graduate programs.
University of Hawaii-Manoa Ha’a Dance, Honolulu, Hawaii
No team knows how to get the crowd excited through dance quite like the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors. Originated by a Polynesian tribe and known as Haka, the Hawaiian Ha’a Dance is performed before each Hawaii game by the football team and is always successful in pumping up the crowd. Incorporating chants entirely in Hawaiian and traditional Hawaiian movements, this dance is a great way to unite the team and intimidate Hawaii’s opponent before a big game.
The University of Hawaii-Manoa is the flagship university in the Hawaii school system, and is located in the Manoa neighborhood of Honolulu. Home to one of the few agricultural colleges in the United States that focuses on tropical agriculture, UH-Manoa has multiple programs dedicated to researching Hawaiian landscape, people, and culture through the Center for Hawaiian Studies.
Texas A&M University Midnight Yell Practice, College Station, Texas
Held the night before a home game or two nights before an away game, the Midnight Yell at Texas A&M is a form of pep rally for students to prepare for matches. At Midnight Yell Practice, students practice their chants and are taught new ones by Yell Leaders, five students elected to one-year terms. Started in 1932, the Yell Practice crowd today can reach 25,000 students before a big game.
Texas A&M is one of the largest universities in the nation, with over 42,500 undergraduate students, and is the first public institution of higher education in Texas. The school has two other campuses, one in Doha, Qatar that focuses primarily on engineering, and the other in Galveston, Texas, which is devoted to marine research.
Clemson University Hill Run, Clemson, South Carolina
Known as “the most exciting 25 seconds in college football” the Clemson Tigers Hill Run has evolved into the spectacle it is today from its iteration in 1972. It begins with the team rubbing Howard’s Rock for good luck, followed by the boom of a cannon and the waving of a giant Tiger paw flag, sending the players and coaches running down a massive hill into the Clemson stadium, or “Death Valley.” As the band plays “Tiger Rag,” the fans go wild and cheer at a deafening level.
Clemson is a public land-grant and sea-grant university. Opened as Clemson Agricultural College, an all-male military school, in the late 19th century, Clemson today has an undergraduate population of nearly 16,500 students, and boasts nine colleges including the College of Commerce and Industry, the College of Forestry and Recreation Resources, and the College of Architecture.
Ohio State University Marching Band Script Formation, Columbus, Ohio
Serving as one of the most famous traditions for Ohio State Football and the Buckeyes’ Marching Band, the signature formation of the word “Ohio” has graced the field since 1936. Ohio State’s band is the largest all-brass and percussion band in the world, and they do not disappoint spectators. Every time the band performs their Ohio Script formation, a new fourth or fifth-year sousaphone player is chosen to dot the “i”, a tradition that has occurred since 1937. At the end of the show, that lucky sousaphone player and the drum major high-five before the “i” dotter bows to roaring applause.
Opened as a land-grant university in 1870, Ohio State is now the third largest college campus in the United States. With strong ties to research, this public institution has ongoing projects covering areas such as automotive and polar research.
For colleges across the country, football is much more than just a sport. Games and traditions illicit a bond between student, alumni, and school that only becomes stronger with every kick-off and every new season. Nothing quite compares to a packed stadium full of school color-clad fans on their feet cheering for hours at a time. So, while sports-centric schools aren’t for everyone, they are certainly worth taking a look, as these traditions can create a sense of community that lasts well beyond graduation!