Top 5 College Football Pregame Traditions

By Victoria Barnett

July 11, 2016

Tradition. This is what college football is all about.

Each college football team has its own tradition, whether it’s rubbing a rock, letting a giant animal run loose on the field, hitting a sign or running through a cloud of smoke. These traditions are trademarks for the teams and symbolize their pride and history. While all traditions are respectable and unique, there are a few that simply stand out among the rest.

Take a look below at our top 5 college football pregame traditions.


Known as the most exciting 25 seconds in college football, Clemson players and coaches touch Howard’s Rock before every game (for good luck) and then charge down “The Hill” in Memorial Stadium. How did this rock rubbing begin?

Back in 1960, the rock was given to then-head coach Frank Howard, who actually used it as a door stop in his office. He eventually had it removed and it was placed on a pedestal at the top of “The Hill.” In 1967, it officially became a tradition prior to their game against Wake Forest as Howard told his players if they gave 110 percent, they could rub the rock. The Tigers won the game, and the tradition of rubbing the rock for luck stuck.

Ohio State

Ohio State is known for having the best marching band in college football. It’s actually referred to as “The Best Damn Band in the Land” or TBDBITL for short. So naturally, they have one heck of a tradition. In 1932, Script Ohio became the quintessential formation of The Ohio State University Marching Band.

The band’s 30 hours of practice per week make Ohio State’s (almost) 80-year gameday tradition simply perfection as the 192 members spell out Ohio on the field with a fourth- or fifth-year sousaphone player serving as the dot in the “i” – which is quite the honor, might I add.

This is the literal signature of The Ohio State University Marching Band and the most identifiable trademark associated with Ohio State football.

Florida State

A student portraying the historical Seminole Indian leader, Osceola, charges down the field riding an Appaloosa horse named Renegade and plants a flaming spear into midfield prior to every home game. Awesome, right? The two have opened every home game with this tradition and appeared in many bowl games.  

Back in 1962, Bill Durham – a 1965 graduate of FSU – envisioned the idea, but it fell on deaf ears until 1977 when Bobby Bowden became head coach and decided to start putting the plan into motion. Hence, the legend of Osceola and Renegade officially began during the opening game in 1978 against Oklahoma State. Now, it’s become one of the most outstanding traditions in college football.


Ralphie’s Run is one of the most dramatic and entertaining traditions in college football. Before the start of each half, Ralphie the buffalo (who weighs about 1,300 pounds) leads the football team out on the field. The current Ralphie is the fifth buffalo to have run under that name.

The first live buffalo made an appearance in 1934 when a group of students paid $25 to rent a buffalo calf along with a real cowboy as his keeper. However, it wasn’t until 1967 that the tradition of a charging buffalo running out on the field made its debut.

Fun fact: In 1970, Air Force Academy cadets kidnapped Ralphie, sandwiched her between two giant buns and paraded her around Falcon Stadium with a six-foot tall bottle of ketchup.


Offering quite the majestic backdrop, the historic War Eagle takes flight around the stadium and lands at midfield before every Auburn home game. “War Eagle” is Auburn’s battle cry, with the most popular story dating back to the first time Auburn met Georgia on the football field in 1892. A veteran of the Civil War was in the stands that day and with him was an eagle the soldier had found on a battlefield during the war.

According to witnesses, the eagle suddenly broke free and began circling around the field. As the eagle soared, Auburn made a steady march toward the Georgia end zone for a thrilling victory, and the Auburn fans began to yell “War Eagle.” At the end of the game, the eagle took a sudden dive, crashed into the ground and died. However, the War Eagle’s legacy lives on and has become a symbol of Auburn spirit.


Start Your Own Tradition

While each of these teams has its tradition, you can start your own tradition at the College Football Playoff National Championship. Traditions are what college football centers around – so why not make your own?

Plus, who knows, we might see these teams face off in the National Championship.
Although some of these traditions can’t travel with them to Tampa, it will be interesting to see what traditions they are able to bring!

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