Traditions Week: Top Ten Traditions  

Posted by Walter

1) The Singing of the Alma Maters, Army-Navy

Though it hasn't had any football significance in years, the Army-Navy football game is still, arguably, the greatest rivalry in all of college football. For 107 years these two teams have met on the gridiron, and fought tooth and nail to against each other. Forget the previous 10 games. Throw the records out. When these teams meet, it is a season unto itself. Unlike Ohio State-Michigan, or Florida-Florida State, when the Army-Navy game is over, the Seniors don't start prepping for the NFL Draft. They don't take the rest of the semester off, basking in the glow of their future NFL career. No, these men take their final exams. They work hard so they are prepared to defend our country, wherever on the globe they are needed. Walter has been lucky enough to have had the privilege of attending an Army-Navy football game. And while these two teams pour every ounce of their effort into beating the other on the field, when the game is over, the greatest tradition in college sports reminds us, all of us, that these brave men are all part of the same team. I still get choked up remembering both teams standing side by side, no longer combatants but brothers in arms, singing each of the school's alma maters at the conclusion of the game. It is easily the greatest display of sportsmanship and revelry that these eyes have ever, or will ever see. This wonderful tradition reminds college football fans everywhere that what happens on the field is just a game, and that no amount of championship banners can ever replace morality, ethics, and sportsmanship.

A picture won't do this moment justice.

2) Dotting the i, Ohio State University

Since 1936, the greatest honor The Ohio State University has bestowed upon a student, has been the privilege of "dotting the i" in the Script Ohio formation at halftime of football games. The privilege has been reserved for a fourth or fifth year sousaphone player, but even a cursory look at some of the most famous honorary "i dotters" gives you a sense of how serious of an honor it is (among the honorary "i dotters" have been Buckeye legends, Woody Hayes, Jack Nicklaus, and Bob Hope). Everyone in the state of Ohio knows about "dotting the i," and so does everyone in Michigan. "Dotting the i" has become such a vital tradition to the Ohio State faithful that when the Script Ohio formation is used at Michigan's Big House, extra police are required to prevent Michigan students from running onto the field and dotting the i themselves. An act that would represent the ultimate injustice to any self respecting Buckeye fan.

3) The 12th Man, Texas A & M Unversity

Everybody knows about the 12th man as it exists today, but few know the story behind it. Legend has it that during a 1922 football game between A & M and defending national champion Centre College, Aggie coach D.X. Bible, desperate for players after a slew of injuries to his team, called into the Aggie stands for E. King Gill. Gill was a former football player who had left the team to focus on basketball, but he gladly donned the jersey and helped A & M pull out the victory. Ever since, the hallmark of the Texas A & M student section has been their willingness to literally be a part of the team, hence the term 12th Man. Today, the 12th Man is embodied in the Aggie student section, which is generally regarded as one of the loudest, most raucous, but most intelligent student sections in the country. Not only do the Aggie students know the game and know which chants are appropriate for the game situation, but they actually pack Kyle Field the night before games to practice. Talk about going above and beyond for your school.

4) Touching the Sign, University of Notre Dame

Up the stairs from the locker room, on the way out to the field, hangs a simple sign. The sign's exact origins are unclear, but it's slogan, "Play like a champion today," has become so ingrained in the tradition of the school, that many actually believe the tale that the school's founder, Father Edwin Sorin, received the idiom as a divine revelation all the way back in 1842. Whether this is true or not, the fact remains that the Irish tradition of every player touching the sign before taking the field has all but overtaken the significance of the sign's origin. The sign's message is clear, and the school continues to embody that message today. While other major programs have sacrificed character and academics for football victories, Notre Dame remains as a bastion of integrity. By touching the sign, every player on the Notre Dame roster pledges himself to the team and to the game of football. The tradition is not just about playing the game, but about playing it the right way.

5) "We are.....Penn. State.", Penn. State University

This is not just a cheer for the Nittany Lions, it's a way of life. "We are..." permeates the entire Penn State experience. It's bigger than college football, which is why it merits so highly during traditions week. We'll let the President of Penn State explain, "The phrase,"We Are Penn State," now aptly conveys the significance of our contributions to humankind since our founding in 1855 and points to the richly diverse community that is Penn State. "We Are Penn State" embraces our differences and unites us as a community despite those differences. "We Are Penn State" is a proclamation of unity, backed by our resolve to come together for a common purpose." In reality, "We are..." is just an incredible experience. 107,000 people roar back and forth, "We are... Penn State!". The Nittany Lions on the field rise to the occassion, and even Joe Paterno has to smile. It's a sad moment when a graduating student realizes that as alums they will switch sides of the field, and halves of their cheer. Like "Rock, chalk, Jayhawk" defines college basketball for many people, "We are" is the definition of college tradition. The best part may be that after a particularly furious round of "We are..." often, in congratulations to themselves on a job well done, one side will roar "Thank you..." to which the response, as expected in such a polite environment, is "you're welcome!"

You can't take a picture of this sort of moment, so here's the video.

6) Howard's Rock, Clemson

It's been called the most exciting 25 seconds in all of sports. In 1965, a Clemson student visited Death Valley, CA and brought back to South Carolina a white flint rock. The rock was presented to then Clemson head coach Frank Howard with the message "from Death Valley, CA to Death Valley, SC." Howard placed the rock on the top of the hill that overlooked Memorial Stadium, and implored his players only to rub the rock if they were willing to give Clemson University 110%. Ever since then, every Clemson football player rubs the rock before home games, and then the team runs down the hill right onto the field. It is this tradition that Brent Musberger (a guy who knows a thing or two about sports) called "The most exciting 25 seconds in all of sports," and most Clemson players and fans will agree. The rock has taken on such importance for the program that the Clemson ROTC guards the rock 24 hours a day.

7) Running Through the T, University of Tennessee

Before every home game, The Pride of Southland Marching Band forms a giant T on the field at Neyland Stadium. The giant block T, that resembles the Volunteer's logo on the side of their helmet, forms its base at the backside of the North endzone, right in front of the Vols locker room. When the team bursts through the locker room doors, they run right through the T to their sideline, in a tradition that has become as synonymous with Tennessee football as Neyland Stadium's patented checkerboard endzones. This pregame ceremony has become so famous that, aside from being one of the most oft photographed moments in sports, the school seriously recruits band members who are capable of performing the difficult maneuvers the T requires.

8) The Swarm, University of Iowa

Long before the New England Patriots came out to start the Super Bowl as a single unit, Hayden Fry and the Iowa Hawkeyes had "The Swarm." Since 1979, every time the Hawkeyes exit their locker room and run onto the field, they do as as a unit, not as individuals. Every player enters the field holding hands, forming the single unit that Coach Fry hoped they'd play as. Fry, somewhat of an amateur psychologist, was noted for his bizarre tactics to gain the mental edge on his opponents (he once had the visiting locker room painted entirely pink). However, The Swarm was something that stuck, and since its inception it has been an example of the commitment, teamwork and solidarity that is needed to win football games.

9) The Blackshirts, University of Nebraska

Football in Nebraska has a long line of tradition. Everybody knows about coach Bob Devaney's legendary recruiting trips (Devaney often told the story that when he was on the road and saw a boy plowing his father's farm, he'd stop and ask the boy for directions. If the boy pointed with his finger he'd thank him and go along his way. But if the boy pointed with the plow, he'd sign him up to play for the Cornhuskers on the spot.), just as everyone knows about the legendary sea of red on gameday. But ask any true Cornhusker and they'll tell you the most coveted tradition is that of the blackshirts. Back in 1964, then defensive line coach Gene Kelly went to the sporting goods store to purchase new practice jerseys. Wanting yellow shirts, but only having the option of black ones, Kelly acquiesced and, unbeknownst to him, started this grand tradition. Ever since that day, the Nebraska starting defense has been known as the blackshirts, as they are the only ones who are permitted to wear these jerseys at practice. A black shirt has become a symbol and a rallying cry for some of the best defenses the nation has seen in recent years, and it is what every young boy plowing his father's farm aspires to wear.

10) The Tiger Walk, Auburn University

Although this type of tradition is now used across the country, we have to give credit where credit is due. Since the 1960's, on gameday, thousands and thousands of Auburn University students line Donohue Ave. all the way from Sewell Hall (the athletic dormitory) to Jordan-Hare Stadium. As the players and coaches leave the dorm, they make the long walk down to the field as the throngs of Tiger faithful pat them on the back and shout encouragements for that day's game. Although the tradition started thanks to kids who would wait to try and get autographs, the Tiger Walk has been known to draw as many as 20,000 fans as it did for the first ever home game against rival Alabama in 1989. While this tradition has been copied by many schools across the country, Auburn was where it all began, and they deserve the credit.


Clarett's Syndrome   says 2:23 PM

I meant to post a while ago about Traditions Week. At first, I thought you were going to make it through the whole week without mentioning Ohio State, just to irk me, but that proved wrong. (But seriously, the Horseshoe isn't one of the top ten stadiums? It's way more recognizable than most, up there with Kyle, Neyland, and the Big House. And "Across the Field" is a great fight song. Anyway.)

I enjoyed traditions week thoroughly. Suggestions for Traditions Week 2008: best marching band, best uniforms, best fans, best team name, best rivalries, richest rivalry.

It seems like the college football offseason would be a good time for pointless, irresponsible projections. Like, what if the best players of all-time from Oklahoma played the best all-time from Texas? What would have been the score of the Sugar Bowl (or BCS Championship) if the teams switched quarterbacks? Which college football team would win in a game of basketball? Or horseshoes?

I'm pushing 200 words, so I'll sign off. Looking forward to the next post.

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