I was recently at a local high school soccer game when an impromptu half-time performance took place: a skirt-wearing soccer player was leading another player, who was on all fours and wearing a large bulldog head, across the field. At center field, the bulldog stood up, pounced on the player, pretended to maul him, and then slung the player over its shoulders and ran off the field. The “Bulldog” sideline erupted in shocked and delighted screams, hoots, and yelps.
Had I just witnessed a tradition in the making? They all start somewhere; college football especially is steeped in fan tradition. Though it’s hotly debated which traditions are the most innovative, the most inspiring, the most raucous, and the most popular, I have a sneaking suspicion these votes would not be without their biases. But these nine are surely some of the best known?and wackiest.
University of Mississippi: Tops in Tailgating
Who could think of a football game without immediately thinking of a tailgate party? Ole’ Miss boasts the ultimate collegiate tailgate experience and has been ranked the top collegiate tailgating spot in the country by Sports Illustrated and number two in the country by ESPN. And this is no beer-swilling, brat-gobbling bash?not to say that swilling and gobbling don’t happen. Ole’ Miss sets the standard with something akin to ten acres of fine dining, including white tablecloths, china, cocktails, coats and ties, and women in dresses. The Grove was originally a spot for fraternities and sororities, but by the 1950s, they were joined by anyone looking for some pre-game partying.
University of Wisconsin: Rocking the House
You know the song “Jump Around” by House of Pain? Imagine bleachers filled with 80,000 ferocious Badger fans singing and jumping around to this song. It is played between the third and fourth quarters at every home game and as those in attendance can attest, it literally rocks the house. This is a tradition still in its infancy, having only been born on October 10, 1998, in a game against Purdue. The Badgers had failed to score the first three quarters when this song was played in order to incite the fans and the players. It apparently worked, as Wisconsin came back for the win.
University of Hawaii: Haka Hoopla
Haka is a traditional dance of the Maori of New Zealand. Rugby teams in New Zealand began using this dance as a pre-game ritual and it later spread to sports in other countries. The original Haka posturing, which imitates violent stabbing, came under controversy in the United States. Now, a politically correct version using foot stomping is performed to the wild delight of all Hawaiian football fans. And incidentally, plenty of Kiwis applaud the Hawaiian version.
University of Arkansas: Calling All Pigs
I actually recall my father calling hogs with, “Sooie! Come Pig!” In Arkansas, this is a common fan rally cry used at many sporting events. The call sounds similar to, “Woo, Pig! Sooie!” and is shouted while fans wave their hands over their heads. It seems that this tradition was started by farmers in the 1920s to rally a Razorback football team.
University of South Carolina: Raw! Raw! Rooster!
Piped into stadiums at near deafening decibels, the sound of a crowing rooster is meant to pump up the fans of the Fighting Gamecocks. The sound of the crow is so abrasive it is now limited under the statutes of “artificial noise” and can only be played during timeouts, after a score, before the game, during halftime, and when the game ends. I’m sure it was much more satisfying to crow at will, but nonetheless remains a fan favorite.
Texas A&M University: Stand at the Ready
Apparently, A&M fans have some of the strongest legs and backs of all fans. At home games, the fans will stand throughout the entire game (except when the opposing team’s band is on the field) in order to signify their readiness to be the “12th Man.” This tradition started in 1922 with E. King Gill, who was actually a basketball player at the time. The Aggies were slowly defeating a top ranked team but not without a series of injuries that was causing the team to dwindle down to its last players. The coach called for Gill to suit up and wait on the sidelines in case he was needed. In the end, Gill was not put on the field but his willingness to do so lives on in the heart of all Aggie fans. Kissing one’s date after every touchdown is another tradition?less tough, but sweeter.
University of Colorado: Running of the Buffalo
Would you trust five college students, called Ralpie Runners, to strap a halter to a 1200-pound buffalo and run her (yes, Ralphie is female) through a stadium packed with football fans? Before the start of each half, Ralphie Runners guide the beast on a gallop around the field in a horseshoe pattern with the school’s football team scrambling behind. Did I mention Ralphie can reach speeds of twenty-five miles per hour? Nice warm up.
University of Florida: Watch Out for the Gator, Baby
In 1981, Gator fans at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium mimicked alligator jaws by extending arms over the top of one another and moving them together and apart. The chomping action was done in time to the marching band performing the theme song from Jaws. It is widely recognized throughout the U.S. as the “Gator Chomp.” But opposing teams beware. If used mockingly, it supposedly casts a losing curse upon your team.
Clemson University: Lucky Like a Rock
It’s reported that nothing sends CU fans into a greater frenzy than watching a football team touch a rock before entering the field. The rock is known as Howard’s Rock and it was given to the 1960 football coach, Frank Howard, who used it as a doorstop. When his office was cleaned, the rock was removed and placed at the top of a small hill near the football field. When players make their game entrance, they stop to rub Howard’s rock for luck. They then charge down the hill, cannons are fired, and the players take the field.
University of Iowa: Pretty in Pink
I can honestly say that I wouldn’t like to be the opposing team at Kinnick Stadium. The former Iowa head coach Hayden Fry, a Baylor psychology major, decided to subconsciously alter the opposing team’s sense of aggression. He did this by painting everything in the visitor’s locker room?walls, floors, lockers, urinals?pink. So perhaps the rebel yells, battle cries, and charging live animals aren’t necessary here. Perhaps these fans can have a seat, sip a beer, and kiss their date whenever they like, while the opposing team sees pink.
Rocks, crow calls, charging animals, beer, and dance all have a place in collegiate football. The possibilities are endless. I myself am looking forward to a new high school soccer tradition for our local Bulldogs and will get in on the action if possible. Bark like a dog!