The leaves are falling, the air is crisp, and for many collegiate athletics fans across the country, that usually means one thing: It’s football season again! For most alumni and current students, game day experiences and traditions are memorable events that many look back on with great pride and nostalgia.
In honor of football fanatics everywhere, the expert counselors at IvyWise have compiled a list of schools, including some you may not have thought of, for a great game day experience!
Baylor University, Waco, TX
Under the Friday-night lights, Texas is known as the football capital of the South. There’s a vested interest in high school, college, and professional football, and the program at Baylor University in Waco, TX is certainly no exception. This Big 12 team has one of the most energetic game days in the country.
One of the most exciting game day experiences at Baylor is reserved strictly for the freshmen. The Baylor Line is a spirit organization made up of first-year Bears who wear special gold jerseys, each with the student’s grad year and a unique nickname printed on the back. The Line is a critical part of the game day festivities, with the members running around the field prior to kick off, then forming a path to the players’ tunnel as the team runs out onto the field. The Line even has its own reserved seats, directly behind the opposing team’s bench.
A great football atmosphere isn’t all this private, Christian university has to offer. With a student body of just over 15,000, and over 260 student clubs and organizations, there’s plenty of fun to be had outside of the football stadium. Baylor’s 1,000-acre campus is located along the Brazos River and offers a variety of outdoor adventure classes like Introduction to Rock Climbing and White Water Kayaking Skills clinics.
Baylor is also known for its service opportunities, with students donating over 100,000 hours of community service to several different university-sponsored programs. Through Baylor Buddies, students can serve as mentors to K-12 students in the Waco Independent School District, and in the Santa’s Workshop project, Baylor students have the opportunity to provide a joyful Christmas experience for area children in need.
Students at Baylor also celebrate the school’s own holiday, Diadeloso, or Day of the Bear, when classes are canceled and students can participate in athletics tournaments, attend free concerts, and relax at a block party.
University of Mississippi, Oxford, MS
For a school steeped in the pigskin tradition, look no further than the University of Mississippi in Oxford. Commonly referred to as “Ole Miss,” this 168-year old university is known for its spirited game day presence.
It’s a social event of epic proportions when Rebel Black Bear students and alumni gather on The Grove, the campus’s historic tailgating site, before and after games to tailgate and talk football. A unique setting on 10 acres of grass in the middle of campus, this gathering spot is filled with southern hospitality and traditions that have been passed down from season to season. From chandeliers and fine china to barbecue sandwiches and finger food, you never know what you might find in the sea of red and blue tents.
The atmosphere in the stadium is no different. When the Rebels take the field, fans can be heard chanting school cheers and singing their fight song, “Forward Rebels.” The Rebel’s rivalry with Mississippi State University is also one of the most heated and exciting competitions in college football, with the teams meeting every season in the “Egg Bowl.”
Outside of its athletics, the University of Mississippi is a public university that boasts over 100 majors, 250 student organizations, and a student body of over 18,000. As a strong research institution, the programs at the Center for the Study of Southern Culture, the National Center for Physical Acoustics, the Mississippi Law Research Institute, and Croft Institute for International Studies are world-renowned.
In Oxford, MS itself, known as the hometown of William Faulkner, students can enjoy this small college town with a history of old-south charm by eating and shopping on The Square, which is just a stone’s throw from campus, during the weekends and after class. The city also hosts the Double Decker Arts Festival, a weekend of live music, food, and art exhibits, every year as a celebration of arts and culture within the town and university.
US Naval Academy, Annapolis, MD
The US Naval Academy is an undergraduate institution with one of the most storied and long-standing football programs in the country.
More than 34,000 fans pack the stands at the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, MD on game-day to watch the Navy Midshipmen battle their way to victory on the field. Game day at the stadium is energetic and loud, with the students rarely sitting during the contest. And after each home game, the team faces the fans and sings part of their alma mater, “Blue and Gold,” to the crowd with their hands on their hearts.
Navy also boasts one of the longest-standing rivalries with Army, which dates back to 1890. The two teams face-off every December during the last weekend of the regular season, and the contest, the last in the triangular series among the Navy, Army, and Air Force teams, often decides who among the three wins the Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy.
At the US Naval Academy, tradition, honor, and pride extend past the football field. As a four-year coeducational federal service academy, the Naval Academy offers majors and training focused on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) in order to prepare the officers-in-training for their assignments post-graduation. Candidates need a nomination, usually from a member of Congress, in addition to their application to gain admission.
Apart from athletics and academics, the Naval Academy also boasts the Trident Scholar Program, which allows candidates the opportunity to conduct independent research, along with the Voluntary Graduate Education Program, which gives midshipman who finish their Academy course requirements early the option to begin master’s course work at nearby universities such as the University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins University.
Yale University, New Haven, CT
When you think of an Ivy League school, it’s rare that football is one of the defining factors of the institution. But at Yale University in New Haven, CT, football is one of the most sacred programs at the school. As one of the oldest collegiate football teams in the country, the Yale Bulldogs have distinguished themselves with 27 national championships, two of the first three Heisman Trophy winners, and the first professional football player.
With a program that dates back to 1872, it’s no wonder that the game day experience is heavily grounded in school spirit and tradition. On game day, the sound of Yale’s fight song, “Down the Field,” fills the stadium, and present at every game is Handsome Dan, the official bulldog of Yale University. Said to be the first live mascot in college athletics, Handsome Dan is one of the most iconic symbols in college football history.
While the legacy of Handsome Dan is certainly a source of school pride for the Yale Bulldogs, few things come close to the attention paid to the rivalry with Harvard. Known as “The Game,” the competition between Yale and Harvard is one of the most storied in the history of collegiate football. Nearly 60,000 fans pack the stands at the Yale Bowl when the game is held in Hartford.
Yale University’s history, while filled with achievements on the field, is rooted in academic excellence. As one of the top private universities in the country, Yale has a diverse student population, with its 11,000 students coming from all 50 states and 108 countries.
As for student life, the university offers over 400 student organizations for undergraduate and graduate students looking to make an impact in the Yale or greater New Haven community. Students interested in sustainable living studies can participate in the Yale Sustainable Food Project, where students and faculty collaborate to grow hundreds of varieties of organic produce on the Yale Farm, just a 15-minute walk from campus. Yale also boasts a strong research emphasis with over one million square feet of laboratory space for those interested in science research.
Boise State University, Boise, ID
There are few game days that stand out as much as Boise State‘s, but maybe that’s just because it looks nothing like any other college’s game day. Called “The Blue” by the Bronco fans, the field at Bronco Stadium is 100-yards of deep blue wonder. As the only non-green playing surface in Division 1 college football, it’s so iconic that the school even has a trademark on the “Smurf Turf,” ensuring that no other team imitates their unique field.
A typical game day attendance at Bronco Stadium is well over 30,000, with fans and students packing the stands and cheering on their team with the fight song, “Orange and Blue,” and egging on the silly antics of their mascot, Buster Bronco.
Boise State’s nearly 20,000 students may bleed and play blue, but they also show their pride off the field and in the classroom. This public research university offers over 200 degree programs, including the nation’s only master’s degree program in raptor biology. 15% of Boise State undergraduates participate in research programs that include biomolecular science, health and public policy, and nanoelectronics.
Boise State students can also enrich their experience by participating in one of the university’s revered Living-Learning Communities. Students and faculty in these different communities are broken into smaller groups based on major and programs, and these small community participants are able to live and work with their peers in reserved, group housing. Living-Learning Communities residents also have access to special resources, programs, and activities, such as special seminars, lectures, study groups, and mentoring programs.
If a grand collegiate game day experience is what you’re looking for in your college search, these five schools have it all and more. Other colleges that show great school pride on and off the field include Notre Dame, University of Oregon, University of South Carolina, Stanford University, and Auburn University. From the first play to the final score, we wish you all the best in your football-friendly college search!