Traditions: The sacred ceremonies that make college football and basketball unlike any other experience imaginable. Just about every college has ’em and just about every alumni remembers their school’s pregame or postgame ritual like they were in the student section last Saturday.
We’ve covered the best bands in the land. We’ve argued over the most famous fight song in the country, and now we’ll debate the most iconic game-day tradition in the game.
#5 – Play Like A Champion Today, Notre Dame Fighting Irish
It seems like just about every team has their own tangible piece of school history that is touched or rubbed before taking the field. Virginia Tech has the Hokie Stone, but in 1986, Lou Holtz asked for the creation of a sign with the saying written on it to inspire the team. While the phrase has been used by the University of Oklahoma since the 1940s, its use at Notre Dame has given the phrase notoriety. Before taking the field in South Bend, the Irish touch the sign for good luck and as a reminder of the legends that have taken the field and touched the sign before them.
#4 – Notre Dame, Our Mother, Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Okay, I’m sorry that I’m letting my Fighting Irish bias shine through in my writing, but growing up adoring these rituals leaves them in special standing in my heart. When the team heads over toward the band and student section, shoulder-to-shoulder, and sing the beautiful alma mater tune, it’s one of my favorite traditions in college football history.
#3 – Take Me Home, Country Roads, West Virginia Mountaineers
My selfish self wishes John Denver’s classic hit wasn’t wasted on the Mountaineers, but they’ve done the tune justice. Singing along at home games since the seventies and they haven’t looked back. When your state has such a rocking’ anthem, showcase it, and West Virginia has made us proud… and a bit jealous. Our own Anthony Ventura takes part in the sing-along every year and I can’t wait to meet up him in Morgantown soon, but just to use him for tradition purposes.
Enter Sandman, Virginia Tech Hokies
Script Ohio, Ohio State Buckeyes
Homecoming, Mizzou Tigers
#2 – The Iowa Wave, Iowa Hawkeyes
Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City rocks out for every home Saturday game. In addition to an incredible atmosphere in the stadium, they’ve provided one of the the coolest, most humbling, and newest tradition in college football: The Iowa Wave. The tradition began with the completion of the University of Iowa’s Stead Family Children’s Hospital before the 2017 season kicked off in the fall. The top floor, referred to as the “Press Box”, allows those unable to leave the hospital to watch the action unfold just across the street.
At the end of the first quarter of every home football game, fans inside Kinnick turn towards the hospital and wave “hello” to the friends of the Hawkeyes watching from the “Press Box.” And if the game is at night, all 70,000 fans in attendance will use cell phone lights to ensure everybody up top can see the wave. A quick announcement in 2017 at the end of the first quarter immediately turned into one of the best traditions in the game while tugging on everybody’s heartstrings in the nation.
#1 – Army-Navy, Army Black Knights & Navy Midshipmen
There’s simply nothing like it. Rivalry renewed annually since 1930, 118 total meetings since 1890, few rivalries in college football have existed as long as this one, but none hold a candle to the competition and meaning of this special contest. Traditionally the last FBS regular season game held before bowl games begin, now held on the second Saturday of December, this year’s Army-Navy matchup will be held in Philadelphia on December 8th with the Black Knights riding in on a two-game win streak.
For players that are about to lay their lives on the line for ours, this is often their last chance to play competitive football before their required five-year service commitment begins. Played for the love of the game and bragging rights, the battle on the field is nothing like what these fearless individuals will take on in the coming years. Finished with the emotional play of each school’s alma maters, at the end of the game and throughout life, both squads and fans hold mutual respect for their opponent. Nothing will ever dethrone the annual Army-Navy matchup as the greatest college football tradition of all time.
Questions, comments or concerns?
This is one of those rankings that is completely subjective to personal experience. I did as much research possible into some of the best traditions in the game and this is how I felt represented my beliefs to the best of my ability, but if you’d like to engage in a conversation regarding the list? Hop on Twitter and find me @pdnorton3, or email me firstname.lastname@example.org.
It’s okay to disagree.
Student Union Sports’s very own Andy Jones created his own list not too long ago: