College Football's Soundtrack: Music to Stir The Soul

Note: This is part one of a two part blog on College Football Music. This blog focuses on pre-game music and in-game music. The next Blog will talk about 4th quarter songs and post-game songs.

Part of the whole appeal of college football is the show, the pageantry and all the things around it. A big part of that is music, whether it is from the school’s band or the stadium sound system there are certain songs that have become traditions at individual schools. This music is the soundtrack of game day at your favorite team's stadium.

Just the first few notes of these songs get fans out of their seats and when timed right they give a lift to the home team.

Let’s start with the bands. Before music was pumped in the bands were the sole source of college football's soundtrack. From Yale’s Boola Boola (later lifted by Oklahoma for Boomer Sooner) fight songs became the call to arms. For years many critics rated Michigan’s “Hail to The Victors”, Notre Dame’s “Victory March” and Wisconsin’s “On Wisconsin” as the gold standards of fight songs. Those fight songs endure.

Anyone who has ever been to a game in Michigan Stadium can tell you that no matter how much you may loathe all things Maize and Blue, “The Victors” is a song that stays with you. At Ohio Stadium the dotting of the “I” in the band’s Script Ohio is a moment to savor as well. In 2001 Ohio State's band came to Penn State and performed the Script Ohio in pregame and it looked like their band members had put chalk on the bottom of their shoes to leave the word Ohio on the grass (it didn't help as PSU won the game 29-27).

I’ve never coached in Neyland Stadium but we did play and beat Tennessee in Bowl games. By the time the game was over though, I’d learned the lyrics to Rocky Top and actually grew to like that song.

During the game some schools have chants. Florida State’s War Chant is annoying but even if you are coaching or playing against them it gives you chills. The same goes for USC’s Tribute to Troy which sounds like something straight off an old war movie soundtrack. Over the last decade or so Penn State started using the chant from the White Stripes song “Seven Nation Army” and it has spread to every sporting venue in America.

Pre-game is where the game is most scripted. Some schools produce sing-along videos like LSU's set to the Garth Brooks song "Calling Baton Rouge." Many teams have choreographed entrances. Of the one’s I’ve seen in person the old Ohio State Hells Bells they used for pre-game warm-ups always brought a huge roar from their crowd. Even at the other end of the field as a coach you’d look down to watch it. The same goes for Iowa’s entrance to Back in Black.

But the most scripted entrance is the Clemson entrance as the team takes buses to the far end of the stadium to touch Howard's Rock and run down the hill as the band plays the fight song that can barely be heard over the roar of the crowd.

No matter where and how they play college football as you watch or attend games be tuned in to the soundtrack that goes with the experience. The individuality of each program is what makes the game so unique. The music stirs emotions in the hearts of each team’s fans, and makes game day something special.

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