While some have been standing for decades, other college football traditions are just getting started. No matter what, it's these wacky and wild rituals and customs that make the game that much more fun to watch. In honor of the 150th anniversary of college football, we ranked the sport's greatest traditions.
10. The Turnover Chain
It may not be as old as some of the traditions on this list, but that doesn’t make it any less iconic. In fact, Miami’s sideline prop even has its own song and music video. Manny Diaz, now the Hurricanes head coach, was the defensive coordinator when the Turnover Chain was born with the bedazzled “U” in 2017. Last year’s version was a blinged-out Sebastian the Ibis. Any guesses on the 2019 chain?
9. Marching In
The Army-Navy Game
The yearly match-up between the Black Knights and Midshipmen dates back to 1890 and it’s one of the sport’s most special traditions. Before the game itself—which is typically the final regular season game of the college football season—Army and Navy make their way into the stadium with large student sections of cadets and midshipmen. The men and women head onto the field and march in formation before going up into the stands to watch one of the most special games of the year.
Is there any place louder than Davis Wade Stadium on Saturday’s in the fall? Mississippi State fans have been clanging cowbells since the 1930s and nearly everyone in the stands is armed with one on game day. The SEC banned noisemakers in 1974, but in 2010 it was revoked, on the grounds that fans cannot use them while the ball is in play. And even if you’re watching a Bulldogs game from your couch at home, it’s likely that you’ll still hear the clamor of the cowbells through your TV speakers.
7. Country Roads
There’s karaoke, and then there’s karaoke with 60,000-plus of your closest friends. John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads” is now the unofficial anthem of the Mountaineers—it has been sung at games since 1972 and Denver even came to Morgantown in 1980 to commemorate the school’s new stadium.
6. The 12th Man
Back in 1922, an Aggie by the name of E. King Gill became the first 12th Man, after he remained standing and ready to play for the entirety of the game, one that the Aggies’ won 22-14 in a stunning upset. Today, the 12th Man honor belongs to the Aggies’ student section, 38,000 strong that stand throughout the game at Kyle Field. A&M has trademarked the name and their stadium is colloquially known as “The Home of the 12th Man.” As the school’s site describes: “The power of the 12th Man is echoed in the unity, the loyalty, and the willingness of Aggies to serve when called to do so.”
5. Toomer’s Corner
If you’re headed towards the intersection of College Street and Magnolia Ave, where Auburn's campus and the city of Auburn connect, make sure to watch out for flying rolls of toilet paper. Tiger fans have been rolling the trees and power lines with toilet paper since 1962 at Toomer’s Corner, named after former state senator and 1892 Auburn halfback, "Shel" Toomer. One Alabama fan went so far as to poison the trees with an herbicide in 2010, and while the original oak trees were unable to be saved, the area was completely redone—new white oak trees were planted in clean soil—and the tradition following wins has remained active in Auburn.
4. Ralphie’s Run
Before each game in Boulder, the Buffaloes’ 2,000-pound, live buffalo mascot, Ralphie, takes a big lap around the field, leading the entire Colorado team into the stadium while sporting a CU-themed banner. Though Ralphie is a female bison, which means she has smaller legs and is apparently “less aggressive,” she’s still known to knock her handlers to the ground and run up to 25 mph before kickoff.
3. Dotting the “i”
To finish its pregame show, the 225-piece Ohio State Marching Band transforms from a block into a script “Ohio” with an upperclassman sousaphonist typically taking the honor of strutting solo to place the dot on top of the lowercase “i” with 16 measures to go in the song. Just be careful if you’re an ESPN cameraman trying to capture the moment on live TV
2. Howard's Rock
Originally from Death Valley, Calif., Howard’s Rock is a piece of white flint that was given to longtime coach Frank Howard in the 1960s. The team started rubbing the Rock for the first game of 1967, a 23-6 win over Wake Forest, and it still sits on pedestal overlooking Clemson's Memorial Stadium. There may be no better pregame buildup in college football as when the Tigers take a bus from their locker room and around the stadium, just to touch Howard’s Rock and run down into their own “Death Valley.”
1. Sooner Schooner
Just before every game, two horses named Boomer and Sooner (because, of course) lead the trusty old Studebaker Conestoga wagon on the field. OU gets its nickname from those who snuck into the Oklahoma territory before they were actually allowed, hence “sooners,” and the RUF/NEKS, Oklahoma’s all-male spirit squad, have ridden the Schooner for 45 years.