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 Big 12 itself isn't all that old or historic in the grand scheme of college conferences. However, the teams themselves have deeply entrenched game day traditions and on campus sights.
Here are some of Athlon Sports' favorites:
Red River Shootout (Rivalry)
The Texas Fair is a monstrosity and the largest state fair in the country is highlighted by the annual Red River Shootout. It’s one of the nation’s best rivalry games and features two fan bases that complete despise one another. The Cotton Bowl is split down the middle at the 50-yard line with Crimson and Cream on one side and Burnt Orange on the other, daring fans to cross over. This deep-fried football game has been played 107 times dating back to 1900.
White ponies named Boomer and Sooner pull the famous replica Conestoga wagon onto the field at every Oklahoma home game. It is managed and steered by the RUF/NEKS, the university’s all-male spirit squad. Every time the Sooners score, the RUF/NEKS drive the Schooner out onto the field in a large arc that tops out near mid-field. The Sooner Schooner debuted in 1964 and officially became the school’s mascot in 1980.
Baylor Freshman Line
Before each home game at Baylor all new students are asked to gather at one end of Floyd Casey Stadium and form a human tunnel to welcome the team. With flags in hand, the Baylor Line leads the entire freshman class out of the tunnel and onto the field all the way to the opposite end zone. This pre-game ritual began in 1970.
Rock, Chalk, Jayhawk
It may not have a sexy beginning — the science club came up with the rousing cheer in 1886 — but it might be the most famous cheer in all of college sports. The phrase “Rock Chalk” stems from chalk rock, which is a type of limestone prevalent in middle and western parts of Kansas.
Texas has the most well-known hand gesture with their signature “Hook ‘Em Horns.” But the Baylor Bears have “Sic ‘Em,” Texas Tech has the “Guns Up” and TCU has the “Horned Frog.” All of which can be seen in abundance all over campus and at games on Saturdays.
The Frog Horn
ESPN once dubbed this trademark as “the most unique in all of college football.” It’s a mix between a locomotive and a trailer, as the 3,000-pound flashing mechanical horn churns out clouds of white smoke and 100-decibel horn blasts. It is used after each TCU score at homes games.
The most loved fixture at WVU sporting events, the Mountaineer first showed up in 1936. Each year The Mountaineer is selected by “The Mountain,” the school’s prestigious senior honorary. The customary brown leather outfit is custom tailored each year and bushy beards are strongly encouraged.
Best of the Rest:
"Take Me Home, Country Roads"
John Denver was adopted into WVU lore following the release of the family 1971 hit single. He was on hand to dedicate Mountaineer Field in 1980 and the song has become a game day anthem in Morgantown.
Waving the Wheat
The wave is a popular sports cheer but Kansas puts a little twist on it by slowly waving their outstretched arms back and forth over their heads simulating wheat in the wind.
Oklahoma State’s Homecoming
Known as “America’s Greatest Homecoming Celebration,” the Pokes take this fairly normal celebration to a new level. The Walkaround highlights the weekend’s action.
Iowa State’s Cannon
The Cyclones fire off their cannon after every Cyclone touchdown or field goal. It is operated by the Alpha Sigma Phi fraternity.
Will Rogers and Soapsuds
The wrapping of the statue of Will Rogers and Soapsuds, by the Saddle Tramps, is a prominent tradition at Texas Tech.
Texas’ massive and signature Longhorn mascot stands calmly in the end zone during each and every Texas home game.
"The Wabash Cannonball"
The famous American folk song about a fictitious train is the unofficial second fight song of the Kansas State Wildcats.
Bullet and the Spirit Rider
Since 1984, the Spirit Rider and Bullet, who has his own stall in the West End Zone at Boone Pickens Stadium, leads the Spirit Walk, the Oklahoma State marching band and rides to the 30-yard line after each TD.
"The Eyes of Texas"
At the end of every Texas game — win, lose or draw — the entire crowd and team sing "The Eyes of Texas" in unison before departing the stadium.
A modified version of “In Old New York” written by H.G. Seldy Seldombridge, "The Waving Song" has been an Okie State tradition since the early 1940s. OSU fans rise and wave one arm rhythmically after each score.
Secret Willie Wildcat
The student mascot for the Kansas State Wildcats is selected by the cheerleading coach but, traditionally, the identity of the student inside the costume is kept a secret.
Related College Football Content
2013 Big 12 Predictions
Big 12 2013 All-Conference Team
Five Ways to Fix Texas Football
College Football's 2013 All-America Team
College Football's 2013 All-Freshman Team
Casey Pachall's Return is a Huge Boost for TCU