It was Mark Twain who said, “The less there is to justify a tradition, the harder it is to get rid of.” Although some college traditions grew out of perfectly sensible circumstances, some exist simply because they have always existed. And some are simply the natural result of combining 18-year-olds with beer, competition, and school spirit. Of all the hallowed college sports traditions, we picked out 25 that are not so much steeped in heritage as they are hilarity.
The Stanford Tree: After the school’s team was dubbed Cardinal (like the color) in 1981, the Stanford band thought the name was lame and decided to create its own mascot. The result is the ridiculous Stanford Tree, a guy in a 40-pound Christmas tree costume, complete with giant goofy grin and top hat.
UCLA Frisbee Cheer: In 1978, a UCLA student nicknamed “Frisbee” borrowed a cheer from Pepperdine and started busting it out at Bruins basketball games with his friends. One student calls out questions and the crowd answers him: “Is this a basketball? Is that the court? Is that the llllooooosing team? Is that the winning team?”
Michigan hockey taunts: At Michigan hockey games, the home crowd has a tradition of taunting the opposing goalie, like so: “You’re not a goalie, you’re a sieve! You’re not a sieve, you’re a funnel! You’re not a funnel, you’re a vacuum! You’re not a vacuum, you’re a black hole! You’re not a black hole, you just suck!”
Duke’s Cameron Crazies’ taunts: Duke is the school everyone loves to hate, and the Cameron Crazies give them plenty of reason to. This student group is credited with originating the “air ball” chant, but their funniest stab is “You let the whole team down,” what the entire crowd chants when an opposing player makes a costly error.
Wisconsin “Jump Around”: On October 10, 1998, a Wisconsin football tradition was born when this House of Pain song blasted through the stadium speakers and 80,000 people shook the place by jumping up and down to the song. After an uproar over an administration attempt to nix the song, the chancellor reversed the decision and it continues still.
Arkansas “woo pig sooie”: Did you know there is a proper way to call a hog? Razorback students have been perfecting the hog call at sporting events for years. Raise your arms over your head and say “woo” for eight seconds, swing them down with clenched fists for the “pig,” and shoot the right arm up and yell “sooie!”
Alabama Rammer Jammer: This cheer was originally performed by the Alabama crowd before football games. Today the chant is done towards the end of regulation when victory is certain, and students scream (for example), “Hey Florida! Hey Florida! Hey Florida! We just beat the hell out of you! Rammer Jammer, Yellowhammer, gave ‘em hell, Alabama!”
Cornell hockey taunts: Cornell is serious about their tradition of taunting. For example, when the other team is announced, fans yell “Boring!” and shake newspapers, which they then crumple and throw on the ice. Fans are also fond of shouting “safety school!” during games as a way of belittling opposing teams’ alma maters.
Taylor University Silent Night: At one basketball game each year, no Taylor fans speak until the 10th point the team scores, when they erupt. Students try to outdo each other’s crazy costumes, and at the end of the game everyone sings “Silent Night.”
Wisconsin Homecoming Cane Toss: Believed to have been tradition for nearly 100 years, third-year law students at the University of Wisconsin run onto the field before the homecoming game wearing bowler hats and throw a cane through the goalposts. Legend has it if they catch the cane on the other side, they’ll win their first case.
Clemson’s Howard’s Rock: When a Clemson alum gave the football coach a rock from Death Valley in the early ’60s, the coach first used it as a doorstop. But in 1966, after the coach order the rock “thrown in a ditch,” it was instead mounted atop a hill over the end zone and players have been rubbing it for luck before games ever since.
UNH fish tossing: Traditions of throwing things on hockey rinks during games abound, but only at the U of New Hampshire do fans throw a fish every single game. A massive fish is chucked after UNH’s first goal, occasionally landing where it shouldn’t.
Penn toast throwing: At the close of the third quarter, Penn football fans sing “Drink a Highball,” that ends with the line, “Here’s a toast to dear old Penn.” At that point, students fling thousands of pieces of toast onto the field.
Boise State’s blue turf: Boise State’s Bronco Stadium has been adding a dash of color to ESPN highlight reels since 1986 when it installed the world’s only blue Astro Turf. That’s really all there is to this tradition: a funky blue football field.
Wyoming beer song: Trombone players in this school’s band make their way around the stadium during the third quarter of football games, leading the crowd in choruses of the song “In Heaven There Is No Beer.” However, tradition dictates that students have to call out requests for the song before it is played.
Texas A&M yells: Texas A&M yells are famous at the school but somewhat comical to outsiders. Before every yell, the yell leaders instruct everyone to “hump it,” and everyone bends over. Members of the Corps of Cadets take it one step further though,squeezing their testicles during important plays.
Rolling Auburn’s Toomer’s Corner: TP-ing is a time-honored teenage tradition, and Auburn has been honoring it since 1963. Once reserved for away football game wins, today the intersection of College and Magnolia Avenue is rolled after every Tiger football win and big wins in other sports.
Rolling the Quad at Wake Forest: TP-ing goes back even farther at Wake Forest, to 1961. After a campus move robbed students of a bell to ring in celebration, TP-ing Hearn Plaza became the victory dance of choice for everything from football wins to presidential elections.
Rolling the court at John Brown University: John Brown University is probably the only place they start throwing the toilet paper before the game ends. At the basketball season opener, when the team makes its first bucket, everyone hurls TP onto the court. It’s a funny, technical foul tradition.
USC wrapping Tommy Trojan: Tampering with another school’s campus landmark is a common practice, but wrapping your own statue? In the week leading up to the football matchup with UCLA, USC students now wrap their Tommy Trojan statue in duct tape and stand guard to protect it from being painted by Bruins.
Ohio State Mirror Lake Jump: In 1990, 100 OSU students jumped in the lake at the end of a march around campus two nights before the Ohio State-Michigan game. Today thousands of students jump into the freezing waters of Mirror Lake in November, an activity roundly discouraged by school administrators.
Stanford Bearial: Before the rivalry game against UC-Berkeley, Stanford holds a mock-somber “bearial” of UC’s mascot Oski the Bear. At the end of the procession, an effigy of the bear is impaled on top of White Memorial Fountain, or Claw Fountain as it is more appropriately called.
Berkeley’s Tightwad Hill: In 1924, broke college kids at Berkeley found a way to watch Cal football games without paying for tickets. By climbing the hills next to the stadium they got a clear, free view of the field. Some students still forgo the stadium for the open air of Tightwad Hill.
UCSC’s banana slug mascot: Students at University of California-Santa Cruz went the other way with their mascot selection. Since 1986, they have been known as the UCSC Banana Slugs. Sammy the Slug has been delighting students on campus ever since and inspiring slogans like “Banana Slugs: No Known Predators.”
Washington basketball game singing: While waiting for basketball games to tip off, Washington fans are known to spontaneously break out into rousing renditions of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” or Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart.”