No matter what college or university you end up at around the country, each one has its own unique history. There are iconic buildings, legendary figureheads and a history of colors and uniforms that have helped build the brands of universities over the years.
Just like a traveler around the world, you don’t want to be somewhere and have no idea what everyone around you are saying. Learning to speak the language on a college campus helps you to go from standing out to feeling right at home.
College chants and greetings can be dated back years, and each one has its own iconic history that has been passed down through generations of alumni.
Let’s take a tour around the country and find some of the coolest war cries that help define each university.
“Rock Chalk, Jayhawk”
University of Kansas
Used as a wild chant during basketball games at Allen Fieldhouse, as well as Kansas football games, “Rock Chalk, Jayhawk” dates all the way back to 1886, with credit going to the university’s science club and geology department.
“Rock chalk” a type of limestone found in the ground where the university sits. The call formed around that idea, and the Jayhawk faithful haven’t looked back since.
It’s history is mind blowing. At the Olympic games in 1920, the King of Belgium asked to know a typical American college yell. A group of athletes agreed on Rock Chalk and taught the fabled chant to his majesty.
Also used a campus goodbye — one will say “Rock chalk” with the response being “Jayhawk” — this chant is a ton of fun, and only can be found in the heart of Kansas.
University of Alabama
Catch a fish? Roll Tide. Have a child? Roll Tide. Perfectly toast your bagel in the morning? Roll Tide.
The origins of the phrase are scattered, with so many stories of it’s first use that I chose to digress, and explain it like this — everyone in the state of Alabama would probably prefer the first words their child says to be, “Roll Tide.”
At the University of Alabama’s Bryant-Denny Stadium is filled with thousands of fans, and the state has been one of the premier college football locations for so long.
This phrase is more than a chant honoring the university’s Crimson Tide athletics programs — it’s a way of life in Alabama, and if you come south, you better show respect and Roll Damn Tide.
Ohio State University
Originally, O-H-I-O S-T-A-T-E was the chant, and it was sung to the melody of “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” by U.S. Navy sailors. After learning the chant while a member Navy, Matthew Sidley joined the cheerleading squad at Ohio State and taught the cheer to fans at Ohio Stadium in 1947.
The second part was ultimately dropped, and the now famous chant was born.
Today, you can walk through Columbus, Ohio and simply yell “O-H” and someone, somewhere is going to yell back “I-O.”
Seeing it pass around the stadium at The Shoe is cool, and it goes to show that 104,000 people having a spelling bee can be pretty intimidating.
“I Believe That We Will Win”
The U.S. Naval Academy
The cheer, popularized by the U.S. men’s soccer team run at the 2014 World Cup, actually came from a U.S. Naval Academy cheerleader, who first started the cheer in 1999 at the annual Army-Navy game.
The call back adds another word with each yell, building to the entire contingent jumping up and down and chanting the slogan over and over creating one of the most chilling sounds in American sports.
Today, the cheer echoes throughout high school gyms and stadiums, college atmospheres, which eventually led San Diego State University to attempt getting the trademark for the slogan, which they were eventually denied.
Don’t believe U.S. soccer or San Diego State — credit for this one goes to the U.S. Navy.
“Wooo, Pig Sooie”
University of Arkansas
Don’t you dare talk bad about the famous Hog Call.
At the U of A, the Hog Call dates back to the 1920s. A group of farmers, showing support for an underperforming football team, decided to start squealing like hogs. Apparently, the tactic worked and the Razorbacks won the game.
The next week, the farmers organized the first rendition of the call, now performed numerous times at Arkansas sporting events.
Razorback faithful use it as a term of endearment and love chanting it in one of the nation’s most iconic cheers.
This might sound like one of the strangest from the outside, but Razorback faithful can’t get enough as the cheer lives on.
University of Minnesota
As you’d expect, one of college athletics most unique war cries comes with one of the most unique backstories.
After John Adams, the University of Minnesota rugby captain, heard Sioux boys exclaim “ski-yoo” after winning canoe races on Lake Pepin. In 1884, Adams decided to come up with a chant for his team incorporating the Sioux cry.
He, with the help of Win Sargent, came up with Ski-U-Mah (pronounced SKY-YOU-MAH) — “Ski” is a Sioux battle cry meaning victory, and “U-Mah” represents the University of Minnesota.
Since, the chant has been included in school fight songs and is the rallying cry for every sporting event in the Twin Cities.
“We Are… Penn State”
Penn State University
Tucked in the heart of Pennsylvania, Happy Valley (named because of the town’s ability to not be decimated by the Great Depression) is one of the nation’s loudest, and most recognizable, chants.
If you see anyone wearing blue and white, simply say, “We Are.” There is a 99 percent chance they will answer you with the call, “Penn State.”
Chanted at sporting events, around town, and added in as the unofficial words to stadium anthem “Zombie Nation,” this call dates back to 1977, when a Penn State cheerleader decided it was time to rival the famous “O-H-I-O” chant of rival Ohio State.
Over time, the chant caught on like wildfire, and has becoming the slogan for the entire university.
University of Oklahoma
It’s the motto of the entire state, and there have been more than a few children named after the famous “Boomer Sooner” chant.
Used as a greeting, the university fight song, and a callback chant, the “Boomer Sooner” fight song was written by Arthur M. Alden, a student in history and physiology at OU in 1905.
Over the years, the fight song became the motto and war cry that hasn’t stopped Oklahoma fans from saying it as much as possible since.