Top 10 College Football Traditions

With the rapidly incoming college football season, some of the greatest sporting traditions make their annual return. From tunnel walks to live animals to sing-alongs, college football offers the best the country can give. It was an incredibly difficult process yet we narrowed it down to our Top 10 traditions from nearly 25. We then each made a ranking of the 10 traditions and came out with our final, average rankings.


1.Play Like A Champion

Average Score: 2

Paul Ranking: 1

Ben Ranking: 3

Ben Explanation: When legendary coach Lou Holtz took over the Fighting Irish in 1986, he implemented several changes. He removed names from the back of jerseys and gave his team a winning mentality, but no change was more iconic than the “Play Like a Champion Today” sign. Since hanging it in the hallway in 86’, Notre Dame players have touched it on their way to the field every single game. While Notre Dame no longer consistently plays like a champion, no sign looms larger in college football.

Paul Explanation: Anyone who watches college football knows the significance of this well-known sign. Back in 1986, coach Lou Holtz brought many changes to the Notre Dame football program, as Ben explains above. When I think of the history of college football, and the current state of college football, Notre Dame is arguably one of the most prevalent teams in the last 40 years. “Play Like a Champion Today” is the most iconic tradition from one of the most heralded college football programs. 



2. Sooner Schooner

Average Score: 2.5

Paul Ranking: 4

Ben Ranking: 1

Ben Explanation: While there are many legendary walkouts and entrances, none will be as heralded as the Sooner Schooner. Since its start in 1964, the Schooner has made Oklahoma University games that much more legendary. While it has toppled over, in 1993 and most recently in 2019, watching the wagon make its way to the logo and turn back is as iconic as it gets.

Paul Explanation: Although I disagree with Ben on putting this large, red and white midwest-style wagon at the number one spot, I can’t deny the presence the Sooner Schooner has in college football. The entrance of the wagon, pulled by two white horses, is a very unique tradition that undoubtedly gets Oklahoma fans excited to watch their beloved Sooners win the Big 12 championship… and then get walloped by an SEC school in the playoffs.



3. Ramblin Wreck

Average Score: 3.5

Paul Ranking: 5

Ben Ranking: 2

Ben Explanation: The only rival of the Schooner when it comes to leading entrances is the Ramblin’ Wreck. Although the car has only been part of Georgia Tech since 1964, the term “Ramblin’ Wreck” has been used by Georgia Tech students since the early 1900s. In 1908, the fight song first appeared in a Georgia Tech yearbook and is now played during football games. With the long history, connection to the fight song, and the fact the students keep the Wreck running themselves, this entrance is both impressive and recognizable.

Paul Explanation: As a diehard Georgia Tech fan, it pains me to put the iconic, gold 1930 Ford Model A Sport coupe at the number 5 spot. However, I think that is only due to the inconsistency of the Georgia Tech football program in the last 30 years. It isn’t fair to put the other 4 wheeled entrance of Oklahoma under the Ramblin Wreck. With that being said, I think Georgia Tech’s entrance is cooler, the fight song is better, and the team is more fun to watch, and at least we don’t get our hearts broken in the CFB playoff every year.



4. Howard’s Rock

Average Score: 4

Paul Ranking: 3

Ben Ranking: 5

Ben Explanation: Out of all traditions on this list, this one was the closest to never existing. In the 1960s, Clemson alum Samuel C. Jones found the quartzite rock in Death Valley, California, and gave it to legendary Clemson coach, Frank Howard, as a nod to the stadium’s stolen nickname, “Death Valley”. It was nearly thrown out before booster Gene Willimon saved it and placed it on a pedestal by the east end zone. In 1967, the tradition began and as they keep winning national championships, the rock’s legend will continue to grow.

Paul Explanation: While somewhat boring, Howard’s Rock deserves the third spot for multiple significant reasons. The first is the obvious. Clemson wins, and they win a lot. Because of that, Clemson fans are rowdy and pack the real Death Valley every Saturday. This brings me to my second reason. The echo of C-L-E-M-S-O-N that electrifies the stadium as the team touches the rock and runs down the grassy berm surrounded by fans is unmatched. There is nothing else like it in college football.



5. Ohio State Band

Average Score: 4

Paul Ranking: 2

Ben Ranking: 6

Ben Explanation: The band is likely the least football-related and least specific to the team themselves on this list. However, when they come out, it doesn’t matter. Every routine is different except for one thing, dotting the I. As the routine ends, the band spells out Ohio in cursive and the last movement is a member dotting the “I”. Script Ohio continues to be the most popular and impactful routine by “The Best Damn Band in the Land”.

Paul Explanation: Dotting the “i” in “Ohio” in script font before every home game is a tradition that is well known, especially amongst the Ohio State faithful. However, the Ohio State band as a whole has a very rich tradition. Started in 1878, the Ohio State marching band was founded by college students. In 1936, they started Script Ohio, which is a landmark and an icon in the college football world. I put this tradition in my number 2 spot because of the rich band history, and the recent success of the football team. Michigan really can’t beat Ohio State in anything, can they?



6. Nebraska Tunnel Walk

Average Score: 6

Paul Ranking: 8

Ben Ranking: 4

Ben Explanation: Nebraska has long been removed from the championship days under Tom Osborne but they continue the tradition they started under him. In 1994, the tunnel walk began and since then it has been one of the most important parts of a Nebraska home game. The walk, mixed with an always sold-out crowd (a record of consecutive sold-out games dating back to 1962) leads to Lincoln being one of the best college game day environments in the nation, despite its recent mediocrity. 

Paul Explanation: For me, what makes this tradition so great are the passionate Nebraska fans who have continued an incredible sell-out streak at home games. Real passion is driving through cornfields and past windmills to come watch the Cornhuskers get 50- pieced by Ohio State and Wisconsin. With all that being said, Lincoln, Nebraska continues to be one of the top cities for college football year after year. The Nebraska faithful lead this tradition into our top ten, and into my number eight spot. 



7. Chief Osceola

Average Score: 7

Paul Ranking: 6

Ben Ranking: 8

Ben Explanation: Chief Osceola, even with its controversial imagery, still manages to be one of the greatest traditions in college football. Osceola debuted in 1978 and is an integral part of the pre-kickoff activities during a Florida State home football game. The tradition should likely be higher but the fiery spear doesn’t land as hard with a less than half-capacity home crowd waiting for their team to be blown out. 

Paul Explanation: Chief Osceola comes with controversy, as you can imagine. But even with the constant backlash the tradition stays alive. Every home game, the Chief rides his horse to the 50 yard line, and then plants his spear in the field. This would be higher on my list, but the recent downfall of the FSU football program has put a bitter taste in my mouth. I can still hear the echoes of “BLOCKED, SNUFFED, RUBBED OUT, ERASED!!! AND GEORGIA TECH WITH AN OPPORTUNITY…” 



8. Colorado Buffalo

Average Score: 8.5

Paul Ranking: 7

Ben Ranking: 10

Ben Explanation: Since its inaugural running on October 28th, 1967, no tradition puts more fear into the opposing coaches and team than “Running with Ralphie”. It takes 15 student-athletes to help steer the 1,300-pound buffalo and even then it’s Ralphie doing most of the work. While Colorado is the only team on here that hasn’t ever been a true powerhouse in college football, the tradition makes their lack of history easy to look past.

Paul Explanation: Okay, let’s be real, 1,300-pound buffaloes are cool. College football is cool. Colorado’s jerseys are cool. So it would be hard to look past the tradition known as “Running With Ralphie.” But the glaring issue is the lack of performance of the football team, and the lack of fan attendance, which sets this tradition back multiple spots. Great tradition, sub-par football team, and execution.



9. Tom Petty

Average Score: 8.5

Paul Ranking: 10

Ben Ranking: 7

Ben Explanation: This may be the newest tradition on this list, but it still deserves its spot. On October 7th, 2017, the University of Florida honored the late Gainesville native Tom Petty by playing “I Won’t Back Down” in between the 3rd and 4th quarters. Since then, it has become a tradition that rivals the chomp and surpasses it for many fans because of its significance. No tradition on this list brings the fans and team closer together than this brief two-minute period and for that, it deserves this spot.

Paul Explanation: Tom Petty should 100% not be on this list. Because Ben is a Florida fan, however, it was shoved in this list. Now don’t get me wrong, having 90,000 people all singing a song as well known as “I Won’t Back Down” is a surreal experience, but putting it at anything above number 10 is puzzling to me. Cool tradition, but not iconic. 



10. Auburn Eagle

Average Score: 9

Paul Ranking: 9

Ben Ranking: 9

Ben Explanation: The oldest tradition on this list supposedly began in 1892 when Auburn played a game against Georgia. An old, previously injured eagle flew away and circled the field during the game before dropping dead. However, the eagle didn’t become an official tradition until 1961 when an eagle named “Tiger” first flew during a baseball game. Students were extremely receptive to Tiger and an eagle has since become a constant at Auburn home games. The current eagle, “Spirit” will make her final flight on November 13th and will be sent off in a surely spectacular way, as one of the greatest traditions in college football.

Paul Explanation: This tradition might be the most genuinely interesting in college football. For starters, the Auburn TIGERS, have a tiger as their mascot. The eagle actually came before the tiger at Auburn University. However, because the eagle was a fan favorite, the eagle stuck. Before kickoff at every home game, the Auburn Eagle flies around Jordan-hare Stadium as the crowd yells “WAR EAGLE, HEY.” The lack of consistency of mascots, which causes confusion to the casual fan, lands this tradition in the number 9 spot, but as seen in Ben’s explanation, the significance of the history is undeniable.