Top 10 College Traditions
By Aimee Hosler Apr 23, 2012
Sure, college is a time for learning, but is also a time for becoming part of something bigger than that physics textbook you've been lugging around all semester. That is precisely what college traditions are all about: binding new students with generations of alumni by allowing them to share in the traditions that make their schools great (and, if superstition prevails, win a few football games). While it's hard to nail down which schools truly have the "best" time-honored traditions, these 10 would surely rank near the top.
10 Storied College Traditions Worth Passing Along
1. Ohio State's Mirror Lake Jump
Only a truly dedicated college sports fan would be brave enough to risk hypothermia by jumping into a frozen lake in the name of tradition-turned-superstition, but that is precisely what countless Ohio State Buckeyes do each year on the eve of the big Michigan football game.
2. MIT's Pumpkin Drop
Once a year, on Halloween to be exact, MIT students launch pumpkins off of the top of the school's Green Building, the tallest building in Cambridge. It's good, messy fun.
3. Auburn's War Eagle
More than 100 years ago, a war veteran let his eagle loose during half-time at an Auburn football game. The Tigers rallied and won the game, and superstitious fans credited the eagle. Today, before kickoff at every home game, the crowd whoops and hollers as a "War Eagle" soars above.
4. Clemson's Rock
It isn't unusual for a college sports team to pay homage to a good luck charm before a big game. At Clemson, that charm is actually a rock from Death Valley. Legend says the Rock was a gift to 1960s coach Frank Howard who wanted the thing tossed in the garbage. A big win was all it took to transform that chunk of earth into a revered tradition.
5. Notre Dame's Golden Helmets
What does it take to make a champion? A golden helmet, apparently. Every Monday night preceding a game, the team's student managers strip and buff Notre Dame players' helmets. They then repaint each helmet gold. This tradition ranks up there with the school's "Touchdown Jesus" mural, but we'll save that tale for another day.
6. University of Tennessee's Vol Navy
How do you tailgate without a, well tailgate? Do it in a boat. Before each home game, hundreds of boats line the Tennessee River as a nod to 1960s broadcaster George Mooney who decided to bypass a traffic jam by driving his boat to the game.
7. Penn State's Paternoville
When Penn State decided to sell student football seats on a first-come-first-serve basis, students took it as an excuse to set up camp around the stadium. This pop-up band of faithful fans named their encampment Paternoville, after the recently-deceased coach Joe Paterno (or JoPa).
8. Oregon's Biker Duck
What better way to rally your fans than letting Donald Duck ride laps on the field riding his Harley (of course)? This University of Oregon tradition dates back to the 40s and was even sanctioned by Walt Disney.
9. The Army-Navy Cadet March
Every year before the classic Army-Navy football match up, both camps march their cadets onto the field in perfect unison. Beautiful, simple and downright striking, this tradition dates back to the 1890s.
10. U.C. Berkeley's "Big Game" Bonfire
If you know anything about Cal football, you know that the Cal vs. Stanford game marks one of the biggest rivalry events in college sports. Each year on the eve of the game, Cal's Rally Committee builds and burns the largest bonfire -- almost four stories high -- west of the Mississippi at the Greek Theatre. Alumni come to share stories of previous Big Games and student groups perform while students, faculty, alumni and fans sit around until the fire dies down.
Define Your Own College Experience
Traditions serve as social lubricants, binding students with their peers and generations of graduates before them. In the end, however, you define your own college experience. Make friends (and fond memories) by becoming an active member of your student body. These days even online colleges have ways for students to connect, both with their schools and with each other. Take advantage of these extracurricular activities -- you'll never regret it.