The 35 Greatest College Sports Traditions: Does Your School Have Spirit?
Traditions are a staple of college sports culture. Passing down longstanding rituals, creating new ones to forge a young team’s identity, and adhering to strange superstitions (a true fan can never be too careful) – this is the type of devotion that separates the spectators from the superfans. When it comes to weird and wild traditions, colleges and universities set the standard for ultimate fandom. Students, alumni, locals and fans from afar take their school spirit off campus and into the streets. From catchy chants to crazy costumes, these amazing traditions alone are enough fun to make anyone a college sports nut. Did your school make the list? Find out who has the best college sports traditions…
35. USC – Flagpole Kick
Hear that clanking on the way to the University of Southern California Coliseum? That’s music to Los Angelenos’ ears (the ones wearing cardinal and gold, at least). When the Trojans have a home game, fans march down Exposition Boulevard from campus and continue one of USC’s college sports traditions that needs no words. They kick the pole.
Forget black cats and sidewalk cracks, this superstition is the only ritual USC football fans worry about on their way to the game. When or why kicking one of the three poles outside the stadium for good luck originated is a total mystery. All that matters is this college sports tradition must be continued, no matter how many stubbed toes are sacrificed!
34. UC Berkeley – Hanging Out on Tightwad Hill
The name alone is enough to land this Cal Golden Bears fan tradition on the list. Located just outside California Memorial Stadium, students gather on Chapel “Tightwad” Hill to get a free view of the school’s football games.
Finally, tightwads can stand up and proudly display their cheapness. The only price these thrifty students have to pay is when the nearby California Victory Cannon fires off. Luckily that’s only before each game, and after each touchdown… and after a win. Okay, earplugs may be a necessary expense.
33. Army vs. Navy – Exchanging Prisoners
No, the annual Army-Navy football game doesn’t start the day with some crazy high stakes prisoner swap involving an enemy of the state. These longstanding rivals have been duking it out since 1890. Part of this great tradition comes before the game, the Black Knights and Midshipmen swap students who spent the past semester on their rival’s turf.
The “prisoner exchange” is unique among college sports traditions; it’s the perfect way to kick off a day of military festivities. This classic showdown is everything American rolled into one: a salute to service, football and a heated rivalry. What more could a patriot ask for?
32. OSU – Mirror Lake Jump
At a glance, Ohio State’s Mirror Lake looks a fixture found on just about any college campus. A glorified pond serving as a quaint haven for students to relax between classes, mindlessly stare at the fountain, and enjoy the questionably green water’s view. Then comes Michigan week when the Ohio State Buckeyes face the University of Michigan Wolverines – one of the most bitter rivalries in college football. On that fateful Tuesday, the mantra “look but don’t touch” is meaningless at Mirror Lake.
Nothing says “Screw you, Michigan” quite like jumping into a gross, freezing cold lake. Thousands of OSU fans gather around Mirror Lake to continue the unsanitary tradition of christening the pond with some sweet cannonballs. Germaphobes need not apply.
31. University of Iowa – A Neighborly Hawkeye ‘Hello’
This special gesture is brand new for Hawkeye football fans, but it doesn’t need years of history to already be considered one of the greatest college sports traditions. Kinnick Stadium is located right next to UI Children’s Hospital, so whenever the Hawkeyes are playing at home, the entire stadium turns to wave at their neighboring fans.
When the first quarter ends, a stadium packed with 70,585 fans turn around to hand out the heartwarming wave. Even the band gets in on the action in an incredible way. As you’ll see, marching bands have a special place in college sports traditions.
30. UConn – Chant with Big Red
All hail Big Red! Basketball rules over Storrs, CT, but the King of UConn isn’t playing on the floor – he’s sitting in the stands. His time to shine comes whenever the Huskies make a run or huge basket that forces the other team to call a timeout… that’s when the student section turns to their almighty leader, Big Red, to deliver a booming “U-C-O-N-N!” battle cry.
A classic rebuttal by opposing fans often comes in the form of a “U-S-U-C-K! You suck! You suck! You suck!” Husky faithful simply take the clever comeback as a sign that their pesky chant has effectively gotten under their opponents’ skin.
29. University of Alabama – Rammer Jammer Cheer
Behold, the almighty Alabama. Everyone hates the Crimson Tide, because rooting against Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide is like hoping your local Pee-Wee football team can pull off an upset. Apparently, winning (by 1,000) can get old after a while – so when facing their in-state rival, Auburn, or any other team, ‘Bama fans bust out their infamous ‘Rammer Jammer’ cheer.
Replace ‘Auburn’ with whatever school you please, it all stings the same:
We just beat the hell outta’ you!
Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer,
Give ‘em Hell, Alabama!
Why are all of these ‘-er’ words lumped together as if they actually rhyme with Alabama? The answer is quit asking questions and Rollllll TIDE!
28. OSU – Dotting the ‘i’ in Script Ohio
THE Ohio State University respects the high step. The school’s marching band, aptly nicknamed the Best Damn Band in the Land, has set the bar incredibly high since the 1800s. Ohio lives for OSU football, and the band’s trademark formation, Script Ohio, helps kick off each game with one of the most impressive college sports traditions.
The famous formation spells out “Ohio” in a complex fashion, as every member stays in continuous motion. The highlight of this brass bonanza is dotting the ‘i’ to cap off the song. The esteemed i-dotter is a sousaphone player, which makes the exclamatory finale all the more interesting.
27. West Virginia University – Singing ‘Take Me Home, Country Roads’
Who doesn’t love singing along to John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads”? Monsters, that’s who. While the catchy tune is loved by many, few can appreciate it more than West Virginians. That’s why WVU adopted the song as its official theme song.
The Mountaineers belt out the country classic before every home football game, and it still gives fans the feels every time. When West Virginia pulls off a huge win, the stands remain packed after the game, as fans come together to give another heartfelt rendition of America’s favorite tune.
26. Stanford – Attend Bearial
In the Pac-12, there is no bigger football rivalry than that between the Stanford Cardinals and the California Bears. Look no further for proof than their annual showdown, which is aptly named the Big Game and dates back to 1892. Instead of an anticipatory celebration before the iconic event, Stanford students prep for the showdown in a more solemn fashion with a “bearial”… Get it?
This hilarious ritual involves a huge gathering around “the claw” fountain on campus. There, a stuffed animal of Cal’s mascot, Oski the Bear, is given its last rites and impaled on the claw statue. Consider it Stanford’s sacrifice to the football gods. Surprisingly, this isn’t the only “grave” tradition on the list… keep reading to find out which other school has a funeral-inspired ceremony for their opponents!
25. St. Joseph’s University – Admire the Hawk Flap
Sometimes, the greatest college sports traditions don’t even require participation, and there’s nothing wrong with sitting back to enjoy as someone else puts in the labor. That’s exactly what St. Joseph’s basketball fans do, as the Hawk mascot puts in an arm workout for the ages at every single game.
The Hawk flapping its wings is truly a marvelous sight. From the opening tipoff to the final buzzer, the brave guy or girl donning the giant bird suit is flapping those arms nonstop. It’s estimated that the St. Joseph’s Hawk flaps its wings about 3,500 times a game. As their motto says, “The Hawk Will Never Die.” Here’s to praying for no overtime, at least.
24. Clemson University – Stamping Special $2 Bills
In 2007, the U.S. Treasury claimed there was $1,549,052,714 worth of $2 bills in circulation. That equals 774,526,357 paper bills. It’s an enormous number, but Clemson fans are doing their best to make sure that each time they get their hands on one, they stamp it with an orange Tiger paw.
By far one of the most distinct college sports traditions, Clemson bills leave a lasting impression wherever they end up. Tigers fans are some of the most dedicated fans in the country when it comes to away games. They faithfully follow the team everywhere and, especially for big games, buy up loads of $2 bills to spend around the area. Even when the game is over and Clemson fans are gone, the Tiger-stamped bills keep their school spirit alive.
23. UPenn – Toast with Toast
This tradition is supposedly inspired by The Rocky Horror Picture Show, which means it’s inexplicably and unforgettably out there. The Ivy League may not be the first conference that comes to mind when thinking college football, but the University of Pennsylvania’s epic toast to their team (pun fully intended) is all the more reason to attend a game.
During the school’s fight song, students unleash a hailstorm of bread, bagels and all sorts of baked goods upon hearing the line “Here’s a toast to dear old Penn.” As if that isn’t hilarious enough, a toast Zamboni rolls through after the game to clean up the breakfast mess.
22. Indiana University – The Under-8 Timeout
TV timeouts in sports are the worst. There’s no debate. For fans who are at the game, a TV timeout is even worse. It completely sucks the life out of the building and kills any momentum that was building. The Hoosiers love their basketball far too much to let that happen. That’s why IU’s band and cheer squad introduced their own rendition of the Under-8 timeout.
The first stoppage with under eight minutes to play in the second half marks the TV timeout. This is when the band takes over, playing the “William Tell Overture” as cheerleaders rush the court with flags that spell “INDIANA HOOSIERS.” As the song concludes, the band shifts to the school fight song, then the entire crowd joins in for an “I-U!” scream as the horn blows to resume play. Perfection.
21. University of Kansas – Waving the Wheat
In college basketball, trashing the other team is every bit as integral to the fan experience as cheering on your school. One of the greatest opportunities to rub it in the opponent’s face is when a player fouls out with the classic “left, right, sit down!” chant. Jayhawk fans also have a very special “Midwest” sendoff for the unfortunate opponent.
“The Wave” is so overplayed. Waving the wheat, now that’s a tradition with some personality. So rude, yet so peaceful at the same time. It must be that special touch, no, twang of Midwestern charm that makes this celebratory, in-your-face sendoff sting just a little bit less. KU is known for quite a few college sports traditions, read on for another great one from the Jayhawks later in the list.
20. Penn State – White Out
Penn State’s “white out” in a single word? Stunning. Just about every fan base has attempted a white out home game at some point, from local high schools to the pros. However, Nittany Lions fans aren’t your run-of-the-mill football fans, and their white out at Beaver Stadium reflects just that.
What makes this tradition particularly unique is that it’s saved for one game a year. One blindingly bright game that PSU fans prepare for every year. It’s a can’t-miss game that should require a pair of shades for entry, because walking into a stadium full of 110,000 white tees is like staring at the sun.
19. UCLA – Frisbee Cheer
The UCLA Bruins have been one of the premier college basketball teams in the nation for decades now, producing NBA talent on a regular basis and consistently ranking in the top 25. After legendary coach John Wooden retired, the Bruins needed to inject some life back into the program. In the absence of Wooden, the leader who brought 10 National Championships to Pauley Pavilion, Bruins super fan Lawrence “Frisbee” Davis stepped up to the task.
Frisbee, who was present at just about every UCLA sporting event, saw a call-and-response cheer used at a water polo game. He made it his own and gave birth to a timeless college sports tradition.
“Is this a basketball?”
“Yes, that’s a basketball!”
After a few fun questions that designate UCLA as the soon-to-be winner and their opponent as the imminent loser, everyone finishes off by shouting “U-C-L-A! Fight! Fight! Fight!” This contagious cry has endured as a Bruins classic.
18. Wake Forest – Quad Makeover
Leave it to a team named the Demon Deacons to embrace the spirit of Halloween when celebrating a victory. Wake Forest University students run out and decorate the Quad area on campus to resemble the sideburns of their hilarious(ly awesome) mascot, the Demon Deacon.
Fortunately for college sports fans, graduating from high school definitely does not mean being instantly more mature – especially when it comes to college sports traditions. If college students were forced into adulting and reserving toilet paper for bathroom use only, some of the greatest rituals in college sports would cease to exist.
17. University of Miami – Flashing the ‘U’
Gainesville has its gator chomp, but Miami has The U symbol. The Hurricanes are one of the most brash, in your face teams in college football, and the gesture known as the ‘U’ is the perfect reflection of that. Throwing up the ‘U’ up is a right of passage for ‘Canes fans. It’s more than a college sports tradition or celebration, it’s a lifestyle.
Players rock notorious orange and green gloves to add a little extra flair. Fans boldly hold up the hand sign for opposing fans to grovel at. There are thousands of universities across the states, but only Miami holds the distinction of being known as “The U.”
16. University of Kansas – Rock Chalk Chant
The Kansas Jayhawks sure know how to hold down the fort with their catchy college sports traditions. The “Rock Chalk” chant is another KU classic that’s even more hypnotizing than waving the wheat. The chant is simple, a three-part phrase repeated three times: “Rock Chalk, Jayhawk, KU.”
The catchy chant has become so ingrained in KU culture that it’s transcended the pre- and post-game song. Since “hi” and “bye” are seriously lacking in flavor, many students show their school spirit with a “Rock chalk” salutation and “Jayhawk” reply instead.
15. FSU – Visiting Sod Cemetery
This Florida State Seminoles tradition is along the same somber lines as Stanford’s Bearial, though FSU manages to take it to another level of intense. Florida State is in the powerhouse ACC, which means a cutthroat season is guaranteed every year. Usually once or twice per season, the Seminoles pull off an especially impressive victory that is worthy of a special kind of tribute – a burial at Sod Cemetery.
When the Seminoles conquer one of their toughest opponents on the road – particularly when FSU is the underdog; when they play against the Florida Gators; or when they play in ACC championships or bowl games – players pull up a bit of turf and bring it back to home. Then, they bury the turf in a cemetery that is, quite honestly, way too legit. You can’t say the ‘Noles don’t respect their fallen opponents. Coming up later, see how the Florida Gators intimidate their rivals in hopes of avoiding this funeral fate.
14. Utah State University – Chanting ‘I Believe’
Technically the credit for this chant goes to Navy. Actually, to Naval Academy Prepatory School, then to Navy, as student Jay Rodriguez reportedly brought the chant with him from high school to college. The call and response chant starts with one word and adds one more each time through until everyone joins together, shouting, “I believe that we will win!” Rather than rely on a cocktail of energy drinks to keep their eyelids pried open like average students, USU fans adopted this war cry. Like all good college sports traditions, you can bet it gets the blood pumping every time.
This simple chant is like Simon Says on steroids. The moment everyone joins in unison guarantees goosebumps. It’s so effective that it’s taken over the soccer world as the go-to rally cry for the USMNT. Maybe UFO hunters should adopt their own version of the “I want to believe” campaign to inject a little adrenaline into their proverbial pursuit.
13. John Brown University – Tossing Toilet Paper
Enough of all this NCAA talk. It’s time to show the NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics) some love! For a small school with just over 2,700 undergrads, JBU sure knows how to make a huge statement: toilet paper. Mountains of it.
When the Golden Eagles drain their first bucket of the year at home, students unleash the rolls of T.P., resulting in a technical foul and two free throws for the other team. The epic T.P. toss has earned JBU athletics the honor of holding the “best technical foul in all of sports.” Totally worth it.
12. University of Arkansas – Calling the Hogs
Forget hog calling during hunting season, Arkansas saves their best hog calling for fall football:
Woooooo, Pig. Sooie!
Woooooo, Pig. Sooie!
Woooooo, Pig. Sooie! Razorbacks!
To try this at home: raise those hands on the “woo” and give them a good finger wiggle action, then finish it off with a fist pump. Be sure to watch the video to perfect your technique.
This is by far one of the most hilarious and fun chants in all of college sports traditions. Hearing it roar throughout a football stadium is a one of a kind experience. If anyone isn’t smiling by the end of this call, well, they just didn’t sooie hard enough.
11. University of Florida – The Gator Chomp
The Gator Chomp is a staple in the world of college sports traditions. Florida is stacked with powerhouse football schools and top tier basketball programs, and the Gators take pride in setting the standard across the board. Every dominant team needs an equally assertive tradition. Kickoffs, big plays, game winning points – there’s always a good time for Florida fans to stretch out their arms, clamp down and clap up the orange and blue.
Part of what makes this tradition so great is that, for all the Gator Haters out there (and there are A LOT), it is a classic way to torch Florida fans. Nothing gets under a Gator’s skin like when an opposing player gives fans a taste of their own medicine by performing a chomp in the end zone after scoring a touchdown or win against UF. There’s always plenty of in-your-face fan action when it comes to college sports traditions in the Sunshine State.
10. Texas A&M – Wave the 12th Man Towel
Step aside Seattle Seahawks fans, because only Texas A&M Aggies fans are allowed to call themselves the real “12th Man.” Aggies fans are the real deal, standing from kickoff until the final seconds tick off the clock. Since standing for hours isn’t tiring enough, Aggies step their game up with some towel waving.
By the time A&M has wrapped up their game, the 12th Man has truly earned its honorary title. They may not take the same big hits as the players on the field, but the student section in College Station burns some serious calories on game day. Read on for another Aggie display of dedication.
9. University of Wisconsin – Jumping Around to ‘Jump Around’
The Badgers are a perennial powerhouse, among one of the biggest names in college football. It doesn’t take much convincing to get Wisconsin’s student section on its feet, but any and all doubt is erased the moment House of Pain’s “Jump Around” comes on.
When the third quarter ends, it’s go time. “Jump Around” begins blaring through the speakers, and Camp Randall Stadium becomes a mesmerizing sight. In an instant, the student section in the end zone transforms into a ’90s time warp as a massive sea of red jumps around like it’s 1992.
8. Mississippi State – Clanging Cowbells
Opponents can’t stand the sound of it. Authorities actively worked to make it disappear. In fact, Mississippi State fans clanged their cowbells at football games so much that they were actually banned until a cowbell compromise was reached in 2011.
It seems nothing will keep Bulldog fans from ringing their cowbells. To opposing fans, this cacophonous ritual is one of the most obnoxious college sports traditions. Mississippi State, however, knows that something good will always need a little more cowbell to be great.
7. Taylor University – Silent Night
Never underestimate the little guy. Taylor U may be a small Indiana school with only 2,000 students, but these fans rep the NAIA like no other. On the Friday before finals, basketball fans pile into the arena dressed like it’s Halloween – and not uttering a word until the Trojans score their 10th point. Beautiful mayhem quickly ensues.
This wild night looks like the equivalent of some crazy sports-only Comic Con event. Dressing up in costumes for no reason is awesome. Storming the court is amazing. Combining the two to make college sports fans insanely jealous? Legendary.
6. Texas A&M – Practicing at Midnight Yell
College students who show up to anything that isn’t mandatory is impressive. In College Station, Texas A&M fans treat Midnight Yell Practice like it’s the most important obligation they have. The night before the Aggies run out onto Kyle Field for a home game (two nights before away games), over 20,000 fans show up for a massive rally to practice their pep.
Yell Leaders donning painted overalls – can’t mess up their fresh white unis before game day – guide the Aggie faithful through numerous songs and chants to prepare for the upcoming game. The grace! The poise! The unity! The attention span! Aggie professors are shaking their heads in disbelief at how such a thing is possible.
5. Auburn University – War Eagle Cry
“War Eagle” is more than just another battle cry or fight song for Auburn Tigers fans – it’s their own all-inclusive salutation. These SEC super fans must be a certain kind of special to repeatedly use a motto that isn’t even their school mascot.
What Auburn fans may consider the best part of all is that every time their War Eagle cry is uttered, it’s like a punch in the gut to their in-state arch rival… Rivalries just seem to make college sports traditions even better!
4. Auburn – Rolling Toomer’s Corner
Back to back traditions for the burnt orange ‘Bama school?! Auburn’s Jordan-Hare Stadium is planted right in the middle of campus, so after a big win, students and fans waste no time heading to the famous Toomer’s Corner just up the street.
Fans load up on rolls of T.P. and aren’t done “rolling the corner” until it looks like the little paw-printed college town was the only spot in the entire state to get hit by a blizzard (of victory). Auburn knows how to honor football.
3. Ole Miss – Tailgating The Grove
Great college football teams are a dime a dozen in the south. While the success of Ole Miss is sporadic as they duke it out in the juggernaut SEC, the Rebels play host to the mother of all college sports traditions when it comes to tailgating. Enter the Eden that is… The Grove.
Widely considered the greatest tailgating spot in the country, it’s easy to see how the sea of red and blue tents draws upwards of 100,000 fans. Win or lose, Mississippi fans are going home loaded up on southern cooking and tailgating festivities that are unrivaled.
2. Duke – Camping Out in Krzyzewskiville
Sports fans love to hate a villain, and no school embraces that sentiment quite like the Blue Devils of Duke University. When big games come to town, Duke fans known as Cameron Crazies – arguably the most notorious fans in college sports – pitch enough tents outside Cameron Stadium in “Krzyzewskiville” that it could pass for its own shanty town.
Hanging out in this tight-knit community isn’t just for students – Coach K himself and the athletes have been known to visit their rabid fans. By the time everyone piles into the tiny stadium, the Cameron Crazies are ready to unleash their fanatic antics on their sorry opponents.
1. University of Alabama – Roll Tide
“Roll Tide!” It’s so simple, yet so effective. It can mean “hello,” “goodbye,” or “I love you,” and, of course, “let’s go!” During football season, walking around Tuscaloosa without a wearing crimson and white or some type of Alabama apparel is highly questionable. When speaking to locals, forgetting to drop a hearty “roll tide” at some point is downright blasphemy.
The Crimson Tide are the most hated football team in college sports, and the reason why can be summed up in one word: envy. In all of college sports traditions, not one holds a candle to ‘Bama’s universal phrase. Crimson fans know that the only way to rep the greatest football team in the nation is to keep on keeping on and “Rollllllll TIDE!”
Know some college sports superfans? SHARE this list with them!