American holidays are rooted in tradition– it’s part of the reason we love them so much. Most households throughout the country will have a turkey on their table Thanksgiving afternoon, presents under a decorated Christmas tree, or fireworks on the Fourth of July. It’s a part of what makes holidays great.
College football, too, is deeply rooted in tradition, maybe moreso than any other sport in the world. Traditions are one of the staples of Road to CFB, with a large part of the journey is to experience and participate in college football’s best traditions. Let’s take a look at some of the best college football traditions in the country (some of which I’ve participated in and some of which I have not).
Full disclaimer: There’s hundreds of traditions and “best” is entirely subjective. Feel free to share your favorites and ones I missed in the comments.
Iowa’s Wave To The Children
It’s one of the newest traditions in college football, but it’s already one of the most heart-warming. The building you see above that overlooks Kinnick Stadium is the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital. It’s been there since 1919– 10 years prior to Kinnick Stadium.
However, it took 98 years for the wave to come around, with it first being implemented on Sept. 2, 2017 in the Hawkeyes’ game against Wyoming. Children who stay in the hospital can watch Iowa football from their rooms and often make signs to post in the windows.
It’s my personal favorite tradition in sports and one I hope to participate in at Kinnick soon.
Texas A&M Cadet March
Texas A&M has more traditions than almost anyone in the country– the 12th man, the cadets, Gig ‘Em, the list goes on (and on, and on). One of the coolest is the pregame march the Fightin’ Texas Aggies Marching Band does that begins in the university’s quad and ends at Kyle Field. Tens of thousands of fans line the streets to see the parade before every home game.
The fight song is infectious enough– love them or hate them– and fans follow the band once they walk past to the stadium. The band is comprised of hundreds of cadets and they rank up among the best bands in the nation. Get to campus early for this one, you won’t regret it.
Also, stay put in your seat for halftime, the block T is impossible.
Baylor’s Line has a tradition before the first home game of the season which involves penning up hundreds of freshman all wearing yellow and then releasing them to sprint full speed across the field to greet the Baylor players. What could go wrong?
Nothing, apparently. It’s been a tradition for years and there’s no reports of anyone getting hurt or trampled. The freshman then assimilate into the crowd in a line (hence the name) across the bottom sections of the stadium right behind the visiting bench. It’s intimidating for visiting players to have the rabid students breathing down your neck.
It’s a tradition I sadly won’t get to participate in– it’s for students only– but it’s a sight to behold should your find yourself in Waco, Texas.
Mississippi State’s Cowbells
If the cowbells in Starkville are anything they’re controversial. Ask any Ole Miss fan (or any SEC fan, for that), and they’ll tell you it’s the worst tradition in the world. I, for one, love them. Sign me up for the headache. Hearing 60,000+ cowbells going at once can only be comprehended in full in person.
Bring earplugs, bring Advil, you’ll need both of them. Should the Bulldogs get in a critical third- or fourth-down situation where the defense needs a big stop, Davis-Wade Stadium turns into one of the loudest sporting environments in the world. It’s a unique tradition that hasn’t held up anywhere else.
Pro tip: Bring your own cowbell from a craft shop. The ones sold on campus will run you $35+.
Being a graduate of Bowling Green, I should really hate this tradition. But the story behind it and the pettiness of the rivalry is too much and I think Toledo’s rocket is great.
It’s a real rocket (disarmed, of course) that’s pointed at the exact trajectory needed to strike Doyt Perry Stadium (BGSU’s home stadium) at the 50 yard line. The Battle of i-75 is a surprisingly bitter rivalry, especially for the MAC. Alabama and Auburn might hate each other, but there’s no rocket threatening to blow Jordan-Hare Stadium right off the map.
The MAC is full of quirks and this one is no different. It may not be the most well-known or most celebrated tradition in college football, but it may just be the most hilarious.
I tried to avoid the low-hanging fruit in this one and dig deep for some truly great traditions. Obvious omissions include Florida State’s Chief Oscela spear plant, Ohio State’s script O, Auburn’s rolling Toomer’s Corner, and Clemson’s Howard’s Rock, among dozens of others.
Traditions in college football aren’t meant to be read on, they’re meant to be experienced. Next time you find yourself preparing for a college football game, do your research. Knowing the traditions and stories behind them make Saturdays that much better.