Nothing beats the pageantry, the fans and the overall atmosphere of a college football game. From filling 100,000-plus seat stadiums to mascots that just don’t quit, there is nothing like Saturdays in the fall. The NFL may have some advantages on the NCAA version of the game, but energy and atmosphere are not among them.
The college football season kicks off with a few huge games, as fans will pour into stadiums around the country to see the 2021 version of their favorite university’s program. When teams take the field, expect the noise to be deafening and the ground beneath your feet to shake, literally.
The 20 Best College Football Entrances
Tradition is the backbone of college football. Universities look for creative ways to engage fans and make their football programs stand out from the rest of the pack, and the best way to make yourself known is by making a great first impression.
When teams take the field, it’s time for business. Some universities have a knack for giving you goosebumps while other entrances simply make the other team stop and take a peak at the show.
From player tributes to iconic sports songs, these are the best entrances in college football that stand high above the rest.
20. Oregon’s Duck Rides His Motorcycle
If you’ve ever ridden a motorcycle, you know that it’s a four-limb job–one hand on the front brake while the other operates the clutch, and both feet are used to shift and brake.
Now, put on a giant duck costume on and ride it across a football field in front of thousands of people. Oregon’s fire jerseys usually steal the show, but that mascot leading the team on the field on a Harley Davidson is equally as impressive. Not a bad spot in the rankings for Oregon.
19. East Carolina’s Purple Haze
Accompanied by a little Jimi Hendrix, the ECU Pirates’ entrance into Dowdy Ficklen Stadium is incredibly underrated. East Carolina’s fallen on hard times since moving to the American Athletic Conference, but if the program returns to the way it was when quarterback Shane Carden was smashing records left and right, you’ll be seeing plenty more ECU football as the AAC continues to gain momentum.
18. USC’s Pregame Stab
The Spirit of Troy starts pregame festivities with a ritual that’s dated back several generations. The Trojan Marching Band’s drum major–who in 2019 was a woman for the first time in school history–heads to midfield and stabs the midfield logo. Whether it’s Notre Dame or UCLA visiting in Southern California, this is one of those traditions every college football fan loves to see.
17. Auburn’s War Eagle Takes Flight
Jordan-Hare Stadium became the home of the Auburn Tigers back in 1939, and one of the oldest traditions is watching Auburn’s eagle gracefully soar over the crowd. A symbol of freedom and strength, Nova–dubbed War Eagle VII–began its flights on The Plains back in 2004. As long as Auburn football is around, seeing the iconic eagle kick off game day is a moment that inspires pride unlike many others. Hey, when Alabama or LSU is coming to the Plains, you take any edge you can get.
16. Nebraska Walks It Out
The Cornhuskers’ slow, methodical journey underneath “The Sea of Red” at Memorial Stadium sets the tone for Nebraska’s long tradition of football excellence. While recent years haven’t been kind, Nebraska has made the Tunnel Walk out onto the field to the tune of “Sirius” by the Alan Parsons Project–the same song that Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls were introduced to in the 1990s. The song was kept under Scott Frost but they also introduced “Jungle” by X Ambassadors and Jamie N Commons after it.
15. Penn State’s Whiteout
As a Penn State graduate myself, it hurts to put the PSU’s iconic night game low on this list, but compared to several others, Beaver Stadium’s annual event is more of an atmosphere than an entrance. Hearing half of the 109,000 fans chant “WE ARE” while the others return “PENN STATE” shakes the ground you stand on, and it’s truly one of the most awesome sights you’ll find in college football.
14. Hawaii Intimidates with the Haka
When the Haka Dance begins, you know it’s time for battle. Iconically performed by New Zealand’s athletic teams during international competition, it’s forgotten here because most East Coast football fans don’t watch the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors play at 10:30 p.m. on Saturday nights. This ceremonial dance is one of the coolest moments in the country, and it deserves a spot on the list.
13. Arizona State Honors a Hero
Beginning in the 2013 season, the Sun Devils honored former all-conference linebacker Pat Tillman, who lost his life serving in Afghanistan in 2004, by building a statue of him and creating a new aura for Arizona State football to look toward. The tunnel was renovated, features a photo of Tillman at the end, and once the doors open, there stands a statue of the American hero, leading Arizona State onto the field for every home game. It’s awe-inspiring and is a fitting memorial to a Sun Devils’ legend.
12. Texas A&M’s Fightin’ Aggie Band
The Texas A&M drumline marches out ahead of the Aggies at Kyle Field, home of the 12th man, and sets the stage for their SEC powerhouse to take the field. The entire stadium claps, flicks pompoms and towels, and awaits the Aggies team to appear at the entrance of the tunnel. Then, Kanye West’s stadium anthem “POWER” drops, and the place goes nuts. Kyle Field is one of largest stadiums in the country, but there’s not an empty seat in the house when the Aggies take the field.
11. Oklahoma’s Sooner Schooner
Two white horses, rightfully named Boomer and Sooner, pull the replica Studebaker Conestoga wagon on and around Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium to welcome the Sooners to the field, but also after Oklahoma touchdowns. In honor of the same wagons settlers of the state brought during the Land Run of 1889, the Sooner Schooner is a symbol of the university’s name, but also the entire state of Oklahoma itself. The Sooners run the Big 12, having won 11 of the 22 conference championships played, so they can pull all the wagons they want onto their field. (Just not too fast.)
10. Georgia Tech’s Ramblin’ Wreck
Georgia Tech’s nickname is the Yellow Jackets, and their mascot is Buzz, but it’s a 1930 Ford Model A Sport Coupe that serves as the student body’s official mascot. “Wreck” first began leading the Georgia Tech football team onto the field in 1961, which originally was a 1914 Ford Model T.
At every home football game, as well as almost all Georgia Tech sporting events, Wreck is present. The car has been maintained by the Ramblin’ Reck Club since 1987, and it’s the ultimate throwback entrance in the country.
9. Michigan’s Iconic Banner
The Michigan Wolverines have been playing football since 1879 and they’ve touched the Go Blue Banner since 1962. The team enters Michigan Stadium at midfield, where the 30-foot-by-5-foot banner arches over the midfield logo. Two Heisman trophy winners, more than 100 All-Americans, and 22 conference championship teams have leapt up to touch the famous blue and gold banner. Michigan’s iconic uniforms top the Big Ten, and this on-field entrance tops the conference on our list, as well. A rare win for the Wolverines over Ohio State these days.
8. Texas Tech’s Masked Rider
Since the 1954 Gator Bowl, Texas Tech’s “Masked Rider” has led the team onto the field, but he was first seen roaming Texas Tech’s sidelines in 1936. The school’s official mascot comes bursting onto the field following the band leading Tech’s fans in a chant of “Go. Fight. Win.” complete with finger gun salutes to the Red Raiders. Other schools may have similar entrances, but The Masked Rider at Texas Tech did it first.
7. Colorado Runs with Ralphie
There are live mascots, and then there’s this insanity. The Colorado Buffaloes began running Ralphie around the Colorado stadium before each half of home football games in 1967. It takes five student-athlete handlers to corral the 1,200-pound animal, and there have been five iterations of Ralphie since. Don’t let size fool you, Ralphie is always a female, as males are typically more aggressive and much larger. They breed them differently in Colorado because it takes a certain type of person to run side-by-side with a buffalo.
6. Miami’s Smoke
Since the 1950s, the Miami Hurricanes have entered the field through a cloud of smoke in one of college football’s best hype-filled entrances. The smoke is produced by fire extinguishers, and the Hurricanes’ emerge in an awe-inspiring moment that is only fitting for “The U.”
Other college programs, as well as professional teams, have emulated this tactic, but no one does it like the Hurricanes. Mark Richt’s squad introduced the Turnover Chain a few years back, and it’s been brought back season after season. This entrance, though, is definitely here to stay.
5. South Carolina’s Space Odyssey
The song was made popular by the 1968 film “2001: A Space Odyssey,” but the University of South Carolina has put the movie’s iconic song to good use. Since 1983, the Gamecocks have taken the field while the melody blares over the speakers at Williams-Brice Stadium. It’s hypnotic, trance-like sound makes way for a rise of noise from the Gamecock faithful. South Carolina may be battling for relevance in the SEC, but their entrance is one of college football’s best on game day.
4. Florida State’s Tomahawk Chop
Chief Osceola rides in on Renegade and plants his spear at midfield while the Florida State faithful let their iconic war chant ring into the Tallahassee air during pregame ceremonies. The tomahawk chop, though, is mind-bending. Doak Campbell Stadium seats around 80,000 people, and all able-bodied FSU fans raise their arms, and chop in unison.
They’ve welcomed their three-time national champion Seminoles onto the field with the War Chant and tomahawk chop since the 1980s, and it’s probably the coolest display of unity in college football.
3. Tennessee Runs Through the T
The Pride of the Southland marching band sets the base of the iconic ‘T’ formation near the end zone, where the Tennessee football team gathers. The orange and white clad Volunteers run through the T onto the field, hanging a left towards their sideline for the opening kickoff.
The team has run through the iconic formation at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, where the Volunteers have recorded the most wins in the country of any team at its current home stadium. Since 1965, the Volunteers have made this tradition one that, while it may be duplicated, is exclusive only to the Volunteer football program.
2. Clemson Touches Howard’s Rock
Samuel C. Jones picked up a rock while traveling through Death Valley, California, in the 1960s, and gave it to then-head coach Frank Howard. The rock was eventually set up in the East end zone at Memorial Stadium, where it remains today. Howard, who coached at Clemson for 30 years, once said “If you’re going to give me 110 percent, you can rub that rock. If you’re not, keep your filthy hands off of it.”
The Tigers ride buses around the stadium, enter the stadium before “Running Down The Hill,” and every player touches Howard’s Rock in “the most exciting 25 seconds in college football,” according to Hall of Fame broadcaster Brent Musberger.
1. Virginia Tech’s Enter Sandman
If you’ve made it this far, you’ve realized that the ACC is by far the most electric conference for entrances in college football, and Virginia Tech is far and away the most exciting. Blacksburg, Virginia is one of the toughest atmospheres to play at in all of college football, and when you hear the first few notes of Metallica’s “Enter Sandman,” you better hope you’re not an opposing team.
The entire stadium, from the band, to the student section, to people who are probably too old to do it, jump in unison as the song builds to its climax. The Hokies’ football team walks from their locker room to the stadium, files into the narrow tunnel and bursts onto the Lane Stadium field. It’s electric, it’s crazy, and it’s our favorite entrance in all of college football.
This article was originally published November 8, 2019.