College football has a rich history of bucket list traditions. Many of these traditions need to be experienced in order to believe they exist. Whether you’re a die-hard college football fan or not, these traditions are fairytale events that transcend the sport itself and allow you to escape into worlds where freedom of expression and creativity reshape your GameDay reality.
Here are 5 of the most gratifying, intriguing, and life-changing college GameDay traditions you need to add to your bucket list.
The Rose Bowl
Who knew that a stadium constructed in 1922 on a dump site in the Arroyo Seco would become an iconic symbol in America as well as be hosting the best college football bowl game. The 92,542 seat Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California has traditionally hosted the conference champions of the Big Ten and Pac 12 conferences. The Rose Bowl game itself has long been coined “The Granddaddy of Them All,” due to it being the oldest bowl game in college football and all the pageantry that comes with it.
The stadium offers amazing views, one of which is the San Gabriel Mountains in the backdrop, making it one of the most picturesque stadiums in the world. The scenic backdrop marries perfectly with the stadium’s design, an engineering marvel.
If you happen to be in the area on a non-gameday, you’re in luck. The 90-year-old stadium is open to the public for daily tours. You’ll be given exclusive access to the press boxes, Court of Champions, UCLA locker room, playing field and more. The Rose Bowl also hosts one of the largest, most unusual flea markets in the world.
Ohio State vs. Michigan
ESPN ranked this game as of one of the top sports rivalries in North America. Known around the sports world as “The Game,” the Michigan Wolverines and Ohio State Buckeyes rivalry is the greatest in college football. No other college football rivalry has such a rich, fierce history on and off the field. In fact, The Toledo War of 1835-36 drove a wedge between the two fan bases before a game was ever played. Yes, college football has its own Hatfield-McCoy feud. And now that both schools are perennial National Champion contenders, this makes the rivalry all that more intense.
The Big Ten powerhouses’ GameDay traditions, such as Michigan’s “Go Blue” banner and Ohio State’s O-H-I-O chant, make attending this game in either stadium an experience of a lifetime.
Tailgating at The Grove (Ole Miss)
Be ready to “Hotty Toddy.” Once coined “the Holy Grail of tailgating by Sporting News, The Grove is the legendary tailgating area in the heart of the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) campus. The word “tailgating” doesn’t do this spectacle justice. The sprawling 10 acres of jaw-dropping scenery is surrounded by mature oak and magnolia trees, which adds to the pageantry of the event. On any given Saturday, more than 100,000 supporters and visitors will make their way through The Grove before heading to the game.
Southern charm is on full display at The Grove. In many tents, food is served on silver trays, drinks are filled via fountains and chandeliers are hung from the ceilings. To put it simply, the experience is heads above any other tailgate party. This is a magical experience even for those that aren’t college football fans. Oh, be sure to stop by Jane Foster’s tent to see the pinnacle of all in at The Grove.
If you’ve been fortunate enough to have visited a College GameDay show, then you are fully aware of why it’s a top 5 GameDay tradition. From its clever signs to its famous alumni to its well-oiled panel, ESPN’s College GameDay has become a cultural phenomenon.
The pregame show is comprised of regulars Lee Corso and Kirk Herbstreit who are joined each week by a prominent figure associated with the host school. The show’s prediction segment that appears at the end of each show is the icing on the GameDay cake. Lee Corso ends the show with his prediction, after which he excitedly puts on the mascot’s headpiece of the team he predicts to win, usually to the boos or cheers of the fans. The atmosphere is electric and is a must for any college football fan.
Night Game in Death Valley
Even LSU fans and players have no words to describe a night game in Death Valley. To opposing teams, it’s like the Grimm Reaper chose this to be their final resting spot. According to legend, Tiger Stadium got its name from a gas station called “Deaf Valley.” Fitting due to LSU fans being very boisterous.
Night games, however, allow LSU’s ardent fans and awe-struck visitors to bond before the game by sharing in southern dishes like crawfish, shrimp stew, alligator, and venison.
As far as the game, to say that the fans are well-oiled, loud, and intense is a mass understatement! LSU fans have various chants, yells, and the band plays at odd times. The element of surprise is what makes all the sights and sounds so magnificent. When it comes to adult beverages, it helps if you like bourbon. You might be offered a shot of the southern juice in the stands. Even if you don’t like bourbon, it’s customary to take a swig if offered.