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 games' traditions. Important locations, songs, items and activities give a deeper meaning and create a deeper 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 ACC has its fair share of historic practices and strange behaviors. From a legendary rock in South Carolina to a beat-up old lunch pail in Virginia, the ACC can match up with any other league in the nation when it comes to traditions. Here are some of Athlon Sports' favorites:
Howard's Rock and The Hill
Legendary Clemson coach Frank Howard was given a massive rock from Death Valley, Calif., back in the early 1960s. It sat in Howard's office for years until IPTAY executive director Gene Willimon placed it atop a pedestal in 1966 at the top of the east end zone on the "hill" that the team runs down before entering Memorial Stadium each home game — the legend says Howard actually asked Willimon to throw the rock away. The next year, the team started rubbing the rock for good luck in the season opener and have been doing it ever since. The crowd comes to a rolling boil before each game while the Tigers players gather atop the hill waiting for the word to charge the gridiron. Many have called it the most exciting 25 seconds in sports.
Chief Osceola and Renegade
The planting of the spear at Doak Campbell Stadium is one of college football's finest traditions. Chief Osceola and his Appaloosa horse Renegade are the official symbols of the Florida State Seminoles, and they both ride out to midfield before each home game to slam a burning spear into the 50-yard line logo. With the support of the Seminole Tribe of Florida, Osceola has been making this pre-game journey since 1978.
The Hokie Slab and "Enter Sandman"
There is little history or tradition with the "Enter Sandman" entrance theme for the Virginia Tech Hokies. In 2000 after playing the BCS title game the year before, Virginia Tech put up a massive new video screen and outsourced the pre-game video production. However, the powers that be in Blacksburg had to pick the song and, clearly, they chose wisely. Besides the signature entrance music, the players also gather in a long tunnel from the lockers to the field and slap a slab of signature Hokie Stone before emerging into a frenzied Lane Stadium.
Georgia Tech's Ramblin' Wreck
When that 1930 Ford Model A Sport coupe comes peeling across Bobby Dodd Stadium at historic Grant Field, the Yellow Jackets faithful go berserk. Bearing the same name as the student body population, The Ramblin' Wreck has been leading the football team into home games since 1961. With cheerleaders draped all over the sides and crisp, whitewall tires, the car is not only an amazing college football tradition but also a work of art.
Miami's Smoke Tunnel
Using plumes of billowing smoke isn't some new or unique tradition reserved for Miami alone. However, the U is one of the originals, as the Hurricanes have been charging the field before home games through a cloud of smoke since the 1950s. Led by Sebastian the Ibis, powerhouse teams in South Florida have been demoralizing opponents by simply running out onto the field.
The Sod Cemetery
A professor issued a challenge in 1962 that Florida State team captain Gene McDowell was happy to meet. He was asked to return to FSU with "some sod" from Between the Hedges at Georgia. Ever since, before leaving for road games in which Florida State is the underdog, facing Florida or any championship game, FSU captains explain the significance of the Cemetery to their teammates. Captains continue to return home with a piece of the opponents' turf to be buried just outside the gates of the practice field.
Florida State's War Chant
There are various historical takes on when, where and how this Florida State tradition began, but many point to a big game against Auburn in 1984. The band played the traditional cheer but the student section continued chanting after the band finished and it stuck. By the next season, it was a stadium-wide phenomenon that birthed the now-historic tomahawk chop.
Best of the Rest:
Purchased in 1933 by University of Maryland students, the statue of Testudo (formerly Gorham) is a 300-pound bronze statue of a Chesapeake Bay Diamondback Turtle. The members of the football team touch the statue before taking the field of play at each home game.
Virginia Tech's Lunch Pail
Then co-defensive coordinators Rod Sharpless and Bud Foster brought a beat-up, old coal miner's lunch pail from New Jersey in 1995 to use as a motivational ploy. Now a well-known and established tradition of the Hokies' program, each week, the pail contains goals, hurdles and mission statements.
Pitt's Cathedral of Learning
At 535 feet, Pitt's tower is the tallest educational building in the Western Hemisphere. And the "victory lights" on the top floors are lit after every Pitt win.
Syracuse's No. 44
Retired in 2005, only the best Orange Men have ever been worthy of wearing the prestigious No. 44, including Jim Brown, Ernie Davis and Floyd Little.
NC State's Fury The Wolf
Former NC State head coach Tom O'Brien created Fury the Wolf to bolster the Wolfpack's entrance to Carter-Finley Stadium. The 400-pound bronze wolf was installed in 2008. Packaged with Tuffy the live Finish Tamaskan Dog, there is no mistaking the canine pride at NC State.
Rolling the Quad at Wake Forest
When Wake Forest moved to Winston-Salem in 1956, students needed to replace the ringing of the Wait Hall bell. So they began rolling Hearn Plaza, better known as the Quad.
NC State's re-entry policy
This is much less tradition as much as it is just awesome. Very few stadiums and arenas allow re-entry and Carter-Finley Stadium is one of them. I wonder what the students do out there in the parking lot?
Duke's Cameron Crazies
No, this one doesn't count but it does deserve mention as few hoops traditions compare to the football versions. This one most definitely does.