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Behold the "white-out" game at Penn State. The tradition resumes Saturday night against Michigan. Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Rah-rah! College football's best, worst traditions

Yardbarker's Kate Rooney and Michael Weinreb address some of the hottest issues in college football. This week's topic: best and worst traditions.

Weinreb:nb游戏平台 So Week 8 of the college football season brings us a few moderately intriguing matchups, including Oregon’s attempt to keep the Pac-12’s dim playoff hopes alive against Washington, second-ranked LSU traveling to play a struggling (but ever-dangerous) Mississippi State, and Clemson traveling to Louisville to face the steadily improving Cardinals. But the showcase game Saturday night pits No. 16 Michigan (5-1) — in the midst of a watershed season under Jim Harbaugh — against seventh-ranked Penn State (6-0) in the Nittany Lions’ annual “white-out” game. It’s possible a major bowl berth (if not at least a shot at a playoff berth) is at stake.

I am a Penn State graduate. And I am old enough to predate this tradition, which began in the 2000s, when the Nittany Lions were seeking to boost home attendance. (The glorious tradition handed down to my generation was to sneak marshmallows into the student section and then toss them haphazardly onto the field.) But man, did the white-out work; it has gifted Penn State one of the most pronounced home-field advantages in big games since its advent. As an utterly subjective observer, I might even list it in my top-three college football traditions of the 21st century.

But that’s where we’re landing today: on traditions, and what works, and what doesn’t. So what would you include in your top three college football traditions? Does the white-out make the cut? And while we’re at it, what are your three least  favorite college football traditions, the ones that make you hurl a foam finger at your television?


Army meets Navy. Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

Rooney:  I'm a sucker for tradition -- the pageantry, the feeling of connecting to fans who came decades or even a century before me. It's a huge reason college football stands out to me on the sports landscape.

I love the white-out; the commitment the fan base shows to this game year after year is remarkable. (And it's worked pretty well against Michigan -- Penn State is 2-1 against the Wolverines in white-out games). But it doesn't quite crack my top three. I'm reserving those coveted spots for the traditions that send (good) shivers down my spine. And there isn't much I find more chills-inducing than the "March On" ahead of each year's Army-Navy game. 

The rivalry between the Black Knights and the Midshipmen began in 1890. And this series is always fun; pretty evenly split over the years. Navy has a 60-52-7 edge, thanks to a 14-season winning streak from 2002-2015. 

Just before kickoff, the cadets of the U.S. Army Military Academy and the midshipmen of the U.S. Naval Academy . Every member of each student body partakes, so it's a somewhat lengthy process. The March On dates to the first meeting between these teams, at a time when the college game was beginning to gather steam. It's the reminder that these programs represent something so much bigger than football. It's hard not to feel patriotic, and grateful for the sacrifices of our servicewomen and men, while watching this moment. It's also a beautiful way to honor the fans of the teams and of the sport as a whole; after all, fans are the carburetor in the engine, without whom the machine ceases to run. 


Ralphie, the Colorado Buffaloes' mascot, runs on the field before a home game against Air Force.  Russell Lansford-USA TODAY Sports

I like those pregame, on-field shows. Another favorite of mine is at the University of Colorado. We can probably all agree that animal mascots are delightful. From Bevo to UGA, whose heart doesn't melt a little when you see one of these sweet creatures adorned in the regalia of the team they represent? Ralphie, though, isn't so much adorable as she is a thriller. 

And she's been thrilling fans at home games since 1967. (The current Ralphie is the fifth to carry on the tradition). Ralphie is a real living, breathing buffalo that weighs almost a ton and runs like the wind. Her team of student handlers are athletes in their own right, undergoing tryouts, weight training, and weekly practices to ready for their game-day responsibility. 

As they release Ralphie from her pen, guiding her around the gorgeous setting that is Folsom Field, it's hard not to get pumped for the game on deck (despite the fact that Colorado hasn't given fans much to cheer about the two decades -- they've had just six winning seasons in that time). 

While it's hard -- very hard -- to narrow things to just three favorites, I think I have to give the nod to Texas A&M's . I'm swayed by the fervor of these fans that I've witnessed outside of game settings. (For example, most alumni wear an "," which they earn upon graduation and seemingly wear for the rest of their lives. I've observed perfect strangers recognize the rings on each other and establish an immediate bond.) But that personal bias aside, it's hard to deny that the 12th Man tradition is just cool. So cool that it's pretty much become the standard by which all student sections are judged (at least by me). The tradition dates to 1922, when then squad team member E. King Gill remained standing on the sidelines, suited up and ready to go. 

Now, A&M students pay homage to that idea of always staying ready by remaining standing throughout the entire game -- an especially impressive feat when you consider how early they start tailgating in Texas. 

Alas, for every Kelly Clarkson, there's a . While I'm fully aware that alumni and students from the programs I'm about to call out no doubt treasure these institutions, they definitely get a little bit of an eyeroll from a distance.

I'll try not to get too political about this, but hands down, the worst tradition must belong to the University of Iowa. Since 1979, the visitor's locker room at Kinnick Stadium has been , from ceiling to floorboards. Even the urinals get the rosy treatment. When coach Haden Fry started this tradition, he said it was because this shade of pink was a calming, soothing color, and the paint job was a tactic to prevent opponents from getting too fired up. Creative, sure. But it's hard to ignore that the color pink is inextricably linked to the feminine, and thus make the reasonable conclusion that Fry, and his successors, have liked the idea of their opponents preparing for game time in a "girly" setting. For what it's worth, visitors to the locker -- so maybe I just need to lighten up.


View of Toomer's Corner after an Alabama-Auburn game at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports

nb游戏平台Now, this next nominee might have you accusing me of being a little bit of a fun-hater, but I cringe every time I see Wisconsin fans at Camp Randall Stadium "." As far as traditions go, this one is on the newer side -- it can be traced to 1998, on a night when the Badgers beat a Drew Brees-helmed Purdue. That night, when House of Pain's "Jump Around" came over the loudspeaker at the beginning of the fourth quarter, the student body took the song's instructions as gospel.

Now they're said to rock out so hard to this song that those who have witnessed it live say the stadium shakes. The whole thing gives me a little bit of second-hand motion sickness. But what makes this tradition so repellent to me is the sheer overuse of this song. "Jump Around" has been played out pretty much since its debut, getting airtime everywhere from bar mitzvahs to a multitude of commercials. And of course, it's standard fare at nearly any sporting event in America. In short, the whole thing just strikes me as utterly unoriginal, and without any specific connection to the great state of Wisconsin. (At least John Denver's mentions )

I hesitate with my No. 3 nomination, primarily for fear of getting doxxed by angry Auburn fans. That's right, War Eagle. I'm calling what it is: the toilet of college football traditions. "Rolling" Toomer's Corner -- the process of covering the trees, stoplights, and sign posts at the intersection with toilet paper after a win -- is surely fun to take part in. Celebrations have taken place there since the 1890s, with the current iteration of papering everything the eye can see beginning sometime in the '70s. 

But isn't toilet-papering something we do to our foes? Isn't it the way we prank the school bullies on Halloween? Shouldn't a program with Auburn's pedigree hold itself to a higher standard? And don't even get me started on the carbon footprint/needless waste aspect of the whole affair (I'm that person who invested in reusable ziploc bags and metal straws after my last styrofoam-filled trip to the South). All I'm saying, Auburn, is you deserve better than celebrating your most special moments with a product generally reserved for the most foul of occasions. 

What are your greatest hits, and biggest whiffs, when it comes to college football traditions?


The Washington State flag somehow makes its way onto ESPN's "College Football Gameday." James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Weinreb: I’m not going to begrudge your distaste for House of Pain, particularly since their existence led directly to -- ironically, the same year those cheese-curd gorged coeds in Madison decided to intimidate the hell out of one of the nicest quarterbacks in the history of football (coincidence, or record-label fueled conspiracy?) 

But a few years ago, I went to a game in Madison, and I sat in the press box and felt the damn thing shimmy like a 6.8 earthquake in the Bay Area when that song came on. If this was the spiritual equivalent of a bar mitzvah, then hand me the haftorah, bro. I don’t particularly like roller-coasters or adrenalized extreme sports , but that was one of the most fantastic things I’ve ever seen in a college football stadium. So I’m putting it in my top three. 

nb游戏平台And maybe “Jump Around” isn’t the most radical or hip of choices, so let me go straight indie with my second favorite: The Stanford band, a motley group of hyper-intelligent weirdos who have, for years, completely deconstructed the whole notion of what a marching band should be. They’re , they’re profane, they , and they for their antics time and again, but they really don’t give a flip. Not to mention their mascot is a mischievous tree, and they were directly involved in the (capital P) in college football history.

nb游戏平台For objectivity’s sake, I’ll keep the white-out off my list — and since you’ve already called out Ralphie, I’ll avoid the rich topic of live mascots (which peaked in the great ). Instead, I’ll stick with the weird — in this case, Washington State fans’ persistent and remarkable ability to display a school flag on location at since 2003. 

That streak almost ended this year, when Gameday  filmed at Disney and initially appeared as if it would have to prohibit flags based on Disney’s arcane park rules, but the ban was waived. The streak went on. The original goal was to draw Gameday to Pullman, but now it feels like a foremost example of the utter randomness of this sport, as well as the sheer dedication required to be a fan.


Mississippi State's cowbell. Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

The Maryland Terrapin uniforms are, uh, colorful. Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

As for my bottom three? I’m not bothered by wall colors, or gratuitous use of Charmin. But you know what I have a problem with? Cowbells. And more cowbells. was moderately amusing 19 years ago, when it aired; now it’s become one of the most tired memes in the history of our oversaturated social-media era. And I know Mississippi State fans’ use of the cowbell predates Will Ferrell’s birth, and it may have been inspired by an , but I don’t care —watching a Mississippi State home game on television is the sonic equivalent of attending a fourth-grade talent show. I hate it. I mute it. I sure as hell don’t want more of it.

nb游戏平台Now that I’ve condemned a cacophony of sound, allow me to condemn a different type of cacophony: namely, the attempt by various apparel companies to draw attention to otherwise moribund programs by jazzing up their uniforms. This, of course, began at Oregon, and there are certain combinations of those Nike-driven unis that I don’t find entirely idiotic, particularly if they diverge from the that so often defines them. But Maryland’s attempt to is one of the most pathetic things I’ve ever seen. Hey Terps: Your state flag is awful. You should just put a portrait of on your helmet instead.

And finally, let me bring a different and more respected musician into this. Do you think Jack White has ever watched a college football game? Because he’s sure as hell profiting from it. Is there a program anywhere that hasn’t adopted “Seven Nation Army” as its pump-up song? I presume no. I presume this is the most overused riff in the entire sport (and in allnb游戏平台 of sports), and I think the NCAA should seize the initiative and ban it. 

nb游戏平台You want a replacement? The White Stripes have about five dozen other excellent songs. You want something even more thematic? How about “”? My guess is as long as those residual checks keep rolling in.

Kate Rooneynb游戏平台 is a San Francisco-based writer and broadcaster. You can catch her on the sidelines or the in studio for various regional and national outlets. She holds a B.F.A. in Musical Theater from Boston Conservatory of Music, and a M.A. in Journalism from USC. 

Michael Weinreb has written about sports and pop culture for The New York Times, GQ, ESPN, Grantland, The Atlantic, Rolling Stone, The Ringer, and many others. He is the author of four books, including nb游戏平台. Find him on Twitter . 


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