The Song Girls of USC are just one of the many beautiful traditions in the Pac-12.
There are many reasons a sports fan can come to the realization that the college game is a better product than the professional version. Some of that has to do with charming, sleepy college towns and the scenic tailgating. The college game has bigger stadiums filled with more dedicated fans, historic bands and student sections. The offenses are more innovative and the rivalries are drenched in decades of bitterness.
Last but certainly not least, are the college traditions.
Important locations, songs, items and activities give a deeper meaning and create a connection among fans and the teams they love. And to each other as well. The sense of community at a great college game is stronger than in any other major American sport. The Pac-12 doesn't have the same entrenched passion of leagues from the East Coast but it has plenty of historic, entertaining and, for lack of a better term, gorgeous traditions. Some of the most picturesque settings in the nation are out West and the Pac-12 takes full advantage of ALL of the scenery.
Here are some of Athlon Sports' favorites:
Each fall Saturday in Seattle, Husky Harbor on Lake Washington is filled with a University of Washington fan flotilla. Fans show up in every possible type of floating vessel and set up shop in the shadows of Husky Stadium to sailgate for the big U of W contest to come later in the day. This practice has been going on since shortly after the stadium opened in 1920 and is often imitated, but rarely duplicated. With the Cascade Mountains to the East and the Olympic Mountains to the West, the crystal clear blue water provides one of the most picturesque tailgating settings in the nation. Don't believe us, check out this NY Times slideshow.
One of the best live mascots in college football, Ralphie the Buffalo makes two big horseshoe runs around Colorado’s Folsom Field at the start of each half of each home game. It takes five “Ralphie Handlers” to make the sprint possible as she — yes, Ralphie is a girl — can reach upwards of 25 miles per hour if not restrained. The tradition began in 1934 when students used a bison as their mascot until Ralphie I made her debut in 1966 when she was donated to the university by a student’s father.
The USC Trojan Warrior began riding his gray horse named Traveler into the Coliseum in 1961 against Georgia Tech. Named after Robert E. Lee’s Civil War horse, the mascot is on its seventh generation (Traveler VII) and does not actually carry Tommy Trojan. The rider is simply a Trojan warrior, whose original costume was procured from a local studio and was the actual garb worn by Charlton Heston in Ben Hur.
Officially known as Charter Hill, Tightwad rises to the east of Cal’s Memorial Stadium and was formed from the dirt that was excavated during stadium construction. It offers a unique view of the action on the field should a game sellout or poor college students don’t feel like paying for tickets. Fans have been attending games on hill since 1924 and most take the opportunity to enjoy many recreational activities high in the trees of Tightwad Hill (sorry, couldn’t resist).
Cougars' Gameday Flag
Leave it to message boards to come up with stuff like flying a Washington State Cougars flag on College Gameday’s TV set every weekend for nearly a decade. No, it doesn’t always happen in the Pac-12 (obviously) but the Cougars' flag has made an appearance on the extremely popular Saturday morning program every week since the Red River Shootout on October 3, 2003 — which is more than 131 consecutive shows.
The tall tales about the Leland Stanford Junior University Marching Band, or LSJUMB, are endless and mostly hysterical. It was founded in 1893 and has been picking on opposing teams, fans, coaches as well as societal injustices, with hilarious political satire and finely tuned musical prowess ever since. This is easily the most entertaining Band website in history (trust me, check it out) and the LSJUMB’s latest victim was the Wisconsin Badgers. The “Ode to Cheese” during last year’s Rose Bowl tested the sense of humor of many frigid Madison natives and upset many boring media members.
USC Song Girls
What isn’t to like about the arguably the most famous cheerleading squad in college football? The squad was first formed in 1967 when seven students began the Song Girls tradition in the L.A. Coliseum. Now the size of the team has grown to 12 but the trademark white sweaters and skirts haven’t changed over four decades of football. Few cheerleading squads in the nation have the talent pool to pull from like Southern California.
“Bear Down” is the official school motto of Arizona and it is featured prominently all over campus. "Bear Down" was created by Zona quarterback and student body President Button Salmon in 1926, after he was hospitalized after a terrible car wreck. Before he passed away from his neck injury, his last message to his teammates was delivered to coach Pop McKale: “Tell them to bear down.” It has been a part of the fight song, the stadium paint scheme, the Bear Down Gym and a variety of other important locations.
Best of the Rest:
The Rose Bowl
Not many college football teams play 45 minutes from campus. But not many teams play in the most historic venue in the nation. The Rose Bowl in Pasadena might be the most prestigious venue in all of college football.
Arizona State’s Student Section
This isn’t as much a tradition as it is an other-worldly experience. This might be the most beautiful student section in the nation.
Stanford's Dancing Tree
The smiling tree from Stanford looks like something out of a Johnny Depp movie and has been entertaining The Farm for decades. The aforementioned Stanford band actually created The Tree in 1975 without consent from the Stanford Board and it stuck.
Cal Card Stunts
The first card stunt of any kind is credited to the University of Cal during The Big Game of 1910. The first two card stunts of all time were the Stanford Axe and a massive blue “C.”
Oregon State First Downs
The stands at Reser Stadium can boast the most passionate and choreographed first down chant in college football. Check out this tutorial.
Utah's Block U
The Utes' famed block U was built over 100 years ago in the foothills bordering the Utah campus. The 100-foot-tall landmark is lit up for every home Utes athletic event and it sits at 5,300 feet above sea level.
When college football became big business just over a decade ago, Nike jumped full force into the game with its “hometown” Oregon Ducks. It now provides several different looks for the Ducks each year.
UCLA light stunts
Beginning in 1935, UCLA actually wired light bulbs into the bleachers. Due to cost and logistics, the actual light bulbs were replaced with flashlights in 1953.
The form of the Duck atop the motorcycle has changed over time, but Oregon football enters Autzen Stadium behind a Harley-riding mascot for every home game.
2013 Pac-12 Team Previews
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