The 2021 college football season is an important one for a lot of reasons.
It marks a new era for a variety of college sports’ most iconic universities, with many of the nation’s perennial powerhouses dealing with the effects of one of the most talented quarterback classes the NFL Draft has ever seen.
The new year also marked the return of the sights and sounds that make college football such a fan favorite in the sports world.
Packed stadiums and raucous crowds, each of which were forced to be put on hold because of the COVID-19 pandemic, returned in a big way when the season got underway at the onset of September.
Along with those important pieces of the college football puzzle came the return of some of the sport’s greatest traditions.
As the excitement built up throughout the 2021 season’s opening weekend, the debate raged on about which tradition reigns supreme in college football.
So, we took matters into our own hands to figure out the best of the best.
6. Texas A&M’s “12th Man”
Many football fans will think about the Seattle Seahawks if someone references the “12th Man.” But, Texas A&M’s version has been around for almost a full century.
The tradition got its start back in January of 1922, when E. King Gill, a sophomore who quit the football team to focus on basketball, suited up and stood on the sidelines in an emergency situation when his teammates were riddled by injuries.
The Aggies were battling a powerhouse in the 10-0 Centre College Praying Colonels, but were left with Gill as the lone player on the bench towards the tail end of the game. Gill never had to enter the game, and the Aggies upset the Centre in a 22-14 nail biter.
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Since then, Texas A&M fans have followed suit, standing in the student section throughout the entirety of the team’s games to match the mentality Gill had on that day in 1922.
It’s one of the great traditions in all of college football, with a spectacular backstory to make it all even better.
5. West Virginia’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads”
When your home state is mentioned in one of the most iconic country songs of all time, it’s bound to be used as your football team’s battle cry.
John Denver’s hit song “Take Me Home, Country Roads” is a mainstay before each of the Mountaineers’ home games for football and basketball, much to the delight of the packed crowds in Morgantown.
It brings the thousands of fans in attendance together before their team goes to battle, and is used as a celebration of sorts during the team’s triumphs.
It doesn’t hurt that the song is incredible, either.
Unfortunately, the song’s actually based on a county in Maryland, which didn’t help when the state’s Terrapins beat the Mountaineers to open the 2021 season.
But, it doesn’t take away from the incredible allure that the song brings to West Virginia sporting events.
4. Clemson’s “Howard’s Rock”
Brent Musburger deemed Clemson’s “Howard’s Rock” entrance “the most exciting 25 seconds in college football” for good reason.
Clemson’s awe-inspiring entrance for the university’s home football games takes advantage of loads of anticipation and iconic imagery, sending fans into a frenzy before some of the team’s biggest battles.
Players packed into team buses, police escorts, and a descent down a steep hill are just a few of the pieces that make the puzzle so special, and it’s one of the craziest scenes a football fan could ever witness.
The most important piece is “Howard’s Rock” itself, which was gifted to former Clemson football coach Frank Howard in the 1960s. Later that decade, the team started using it as a motivating factor for its players.
“If you’re going to give me 110 percent, you can rub that rock,” Howard reportedly told players. “If you’re not, keep your filthy hands off of it.”
3. Iowa’s “Kinnick Wave”
If you’ve ever seen fans at Kinnick Stadium turn to one direction during a game and begin waving, you’ve witnessed one of the most heartwarming traditions college football has to offer.
The “Kinnick Wave” began in 2017, so its history isn’t as illustrious as many of the longtime traditions on the list. But, its overall meaning and inspirational nature help to separate it from others.
Fans and players alike wave to the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital, which overlooks the East stands of the stadium.
ESPN deemed the moment “college football’s coolest new tradition,” and rightfully so. If this had decades of experience to add to its backstory, it would likely be one of the most iconic traditions in all of sports.
2. Virginia Tech’s “Enter Sandman”
The return of fans in 2021 really heightened the excitement around some of college football’s greatest traditions. One of those involves the Virginia Tech Hokies.
For each of the Hokies’ home football games, the team’s players come out to an electric crowd who are singing along to Metallica’s “Enter Sandman.”
Seismograph readings for Blacksburg, Virginia literally captured the true physical feelings associated with the Hokies’ iconic entrance, highlighting the impact of one of the best crowds in all of college football.
If you’re looking to enjoy one of the best atmospheres in sports, there’s not much better than the environment created by the near 70,000 fans at Lane Stadium in Virginia.
1. Wisconsin’s “Jump Around”
The second, and most important, tradition that was welcomed back by the return of fans for the 2021 season features a litany of rowdy fans at Wisconsin’s Camp Randall Stadium.
There is nothing better than the anticipation that builds up when a Wisconsin football game transitions from the third quarter to the fourth, and a virtual race begins on the giant screens inside the stadium.
Participating in that race is a group of letters, each associated with a section of the jam-packed stadium. The winner gets the honor of celebrating with the greatest sight and sound in all of college sports, all thanks to House of Pain’s “Jump Around.”
The goosebumps associated with Wisconsin’s “Jump Around” tradition are unmatched. The excitement is almost impossible to top. Even the game’s announcers and sideline reporters get in on the action.
When the tradition returned to Camp Randall Stadium in early September of 2021 after a 2020 season that was impacted by COVID-19, it was the true sign that all was right in the world of college football.
There’s nothing that beats “Jump Around,” and it takes the cake as the best tradition that college football has to offer.