Tradition-rich NCAA football returns

Mark Farmer
August 28, 2009

You see the students slowly start to file out of their dorm rooms, and head toward what will be their home for the next day. They start the tailgates at seven in the morning, even though the game isn’t scheduled to begin until later that night. You can hear the faint sound of the marching band off somewhere in the distance, practicing their new formation and song, and hear the fans in the parking lots, singing the fight song like all fans, off key and a little slurred.

You now know that this type of football is different, unique. Not the millionaires running around on the field, but kids playing because they love to play.

There’s no better feeling than watching football games in late August that actually matter. Most years at the beginning of the college football season, some teams play on the final weekend of August. Finally, we can stop with the NFL preseason and watch a game like when Appalachian State blocked a Michigan field goal attempt to secure a win over a top-10 opponent. The following week, Michigan fell out of the top 25 rankings and their national title hopes were finished.

There’s no better feeling than pre-game traditions that have gone on for years. Things like Yell Practice before every Texas A&M home game in College Station, or students at Notre Dame giving the helmets a fresh coat of paint that contains actual gold. The dotting of the “I” in script Ohio before Ohio State games at the Horseshoe. Or walking through the Grove before every home game at Ole Miss.

College football in the south is one of the largest religions. And every Saturday, they hold their church in different locations, but nothing as unique as the Grove. People dressed like they should be going to a formal dinner party – It’s a southern tradition to wear your best clothing before you go into battle – and beautiful women in every directions you look. The running joke around the Ole Miss campus is that they are red-shirt Miss America contestants, not just football players.

[php snippet=1]

There’s no better feeling than a player entrance without all the fireworks and cheesy scoreboard graphics. Just players sitting in a small tunnel, built for the people with the build of a stick figure, waiting for the school fight song or their traditional entrance music to begin, seeing the players bouncing off the walls and off of each other before they are released to the crowd.

The touching of Howard’s Rock before every game at Clemson, right before the players sprint down the hill into Memorial Stadium, or running through the “T” at Neyland Stadium at the University of Tennessee. Auburn players lock arms with coaches and walk through a cloud of smoke at midfield, or the original entrance. Nebraska University began the use of a video board to incorporate a teams entrance. They show a brief video, then live footage of the players walking through the tunnels underneath the stadium and out onto the playing field, similar to a prize fighter being shown walking from the locker room to the ring. All in an attempt to build up the intensity before the game.

There’s no better feeling than watching fans that actually care and are willing to let the other team know, “You’re in our building!”. Creative chants, fight songs, and just plain noise. Students decked out in school colours all screaming in unison to help their team, sometimes causing chaos in the process.

One night on the campus of LSU, the university’s seismograph began going off, saying there was an earthquake underneath Tiger Stadium as a result of the fan noise. That’s loud.

There’s no better feeling than seeing the legions of fans run out onto the field after a huge upset win. Two years ago, perennial Big East doormat Rutgers was on the verge of their first Big East crown in quite some time. Facing Louisville on a Thursday night, Rutgers needed a win in order to stay alive for a BCS Bowl bid.

A late field goal by Rutgers kicker Jeremy Ito left little time on the clock for Louisville to march down the field for the winning touchdown. Time expired with Rutgers still on top, and the stands emptied faster than water being poured down the drain. The blimp shot was absolutely unbelievable.

Every Saturday afternoon, you have the chance to see some of these traditions happening and if you ever get the chance to see it live, it might send chills down your spine. Whatever custom you prefer, there’s only one thing to say about it

College Football. There’s nothing like it.

[php snippet=1]

The Author:

Mark Farmer