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Saturday, October 08, 2005

College football's unique, wacky traditions
Pete Fiutak /

College football is known for its pageantry, rivalries, and traditions more than any other American sport. From coast to coast, college football programs have their own quirky ways of celebrating the game with unique rituals that can only come from decades of games, along with a deeply rooted passion from the alumni and fans.

So which traditions are the most unique in college football? Which ones are the most identifiable, and which ones inspire the most excitement and stir the deepest feelings? Compiled by the staff of, here are the 10 most unique traditions based on what they mean to the game, what they mean to each school, and above all else, how cool they are. From the awe-inspiring sights of a 1,300-pound buffalo and 20,000 students jumping around, to the drama of a flaming spear plunged into the ground, to the parties and social gatherings that bring fans together, here's our very debatable list of the 10 most unique traditions.

1. Texas A&M 12th Man
No tradition in college football embodies the spirit of the sport more than the Texas A&M 12th Man. Going against No. 1 Centre College in 1922, the Aggies were scrapping for players in a tough game that took its toll on both sides. A&M head coach Dana X. Bible, in need of more bodies, called up to the press box for E. King Gill, a basketball player who had seen a little bit of time on the football team in previous seasons, to put on a uniform and be prepared to play. The Aggies pulled off the 22-14 upset without needing Gill's services, but he stood ready on the sidelines earning the moniker of the 12th Man.

Now, A&M's 12th Man is a student section that stands the entire game prepared in case they're needed. Former Aggie head coach Jackie Sherrill took it one step further by allowing A&M students to form the kickoff coverage unit. It eventually evolved into an honor belonging to one student who gets to play on special teams.

2. Army-Navy game procession
The most endearing and emotional tradition in college football, the procession, also known as the "March-On" of the Army Corps of Cadets and Brigade of Midshipmen, is seen by many as more exciting than the actual game between Army and Navy. The pageantry of the procession is the perfect prelude to one of college football's most heated, yet most sane, rivalries. It's as good-natured as a rivalry can possibly be, with everyone in the stadium on the same team when all is said and done.

Chief Osceola has been a fixture at Florida State home games since 1977. (Doug Benc / Getty Images)

3. Florida State's Chief Osceola and Renegade
For pure intensity and excitement, nothing beats the electrifying few moments in Florida State's Doak Campbell Stadium when a student, dressed up Seminole Tribe leader Chief Osceola, rides on the field on an Appaloosa horse named Renegade and fires a flaming spear in the middle of the field. FSU graduate Bill Durham created the idea, and then got the approval of the Seminole Tribe, and then got the approval of head coach Bobby Bowden who allowed it to start in 1977. Now, it's done before every Florida State home game, cranking up the intensity level for both sides.

4. Ohio State dotting of the "i"
What would college football Saturdays be without the soundtrack coming from the bands? Every school has a version of a marching band, but Ohio State's "Script Ohio" is the most impressive and famous with the band forming the word "Ohio" in the middle of the field.

Just before the end of "Le Regiment," the drum major leads a senior sousaphone player out to the top of the "I," points to the spot where the dot is needed, and the honored band member becomes the dot before bowing to the crowd. It's the highest honor Ohio State bestows, and has allowed a few select non-band members, like Woody Hayes, to take part.

5. The Grove at Ole Miss
What's college football without a good tailgate party? The World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party before the annual Florida-Georgia game might be the biggest, but the shindigs thrown before Ole Miss home games at the Grove are the best. An oasis in the normally uncivilized world of college football, the Grove is known for dressing up, drinking down, good food, and cream of the crop, Miss America-caliber women.

6. Tennessee's Floatilla
Is there a better way to get to a college football game? In 1962, former Tennessee broadcaster George Mooney got to Neyland Stadium by floating on his boat down the Tennessee River, starting the tradition of fans forming the "Volunteer Navy" boating their way to the game. Of course, the galas are tremendous in one of college football's most unique tailgating parties.

7. Wisconsin's "Jump Around"
College football is one big party, and no school is better at letting loose than Wisconsin, ranked the No. 1 party school in the nation by The Princeton Review. Adding to the raucous excitement of game day in Madison is the relatively new tradition of making Camp Randall Stadium one big house party after the third quarter of every game.

As soon as the quarter ends, the song Jump Around by House of Pain blares over the loudspeakers, and the entire student section, along with the band and many others around the stadium and on the sidelines, jump up and down. The tradition became so wild that there were concerns about the effects on the stadium's structure. Engineers eventually determined there was no danger, and now the upper-deck shaking, human-induced earthquake goes on.

8. Colorado's Ralphie

Ralphie's entrance is always a hit in Boulder. (Brian Bahr / Getty Images)

In 1966, a rancher named Bubby Hays brought a six-month-old buffalo named Ralphie to Colorado's Folsom Field and walked him around a bit. It turned into a tradition with six sophomore students making the trip before each game to Hays' ranch to run Ralphie around for two hours to tire her out a little bit (yes, the first Ralphie was a girl), and then bring her to the stadium to come charging out of the tunnel while the fans did a "Buffalo Stomp," sending the crowd into a tizzy. It has become one of the most impressive and intimidating entries in all of college football.

9. Oklahoma's Sooner Schooner
Started in 1965 after an Oklahoma alum donated the first "Sooner Schooner," along with the horses to pull it, the covered wagon would cruise around during the game. By 1980, it became the school's official mascot and was zipped around the field after Oklahoma touchdowns as one of the most identifiable symbols in all of sports.

10. Clemson's Howard's Rock
Several schools have inspiring pregame patting rituals. Notre Dame players walk down the stairs of their locker room hitting a sign that says, "Play like a champion today." Michigan players run out of the tunnel and jump up to hit the "Go Blue" sign. But Clemson's rubbing of The Rock is the most awe-inspiring.

Before Clemson games, the team stands at the top of a hill, rubs Howard's Rock, and then runs down the hill while the crowd goes wild. It started in 1964 when Clemson alumnus S.C. Jones brought a rock back from Death Valley, Calif., and gave it to Tiger head coach Frank Howard. Howard let it sit on his office floor before telling his secretary to "do something with it, but get it out of here." The secretary ended up keeping the Rock, and it was eventually put on a pedestal on the top of the hill in the stadium in 1966. That day, Clemson rallied in the second half to beat Virginia and the Rock stayed. "If you're going to give me 110 percent, you can rub my rock," Howard barked at his players. "If you're not, keep your filthy hands off of it."

Honorable mention

Arkansas: Hog call
Razorback fans spontaneously "Call the Hogs." The fans raise both hands high into the air, fingers waving as the volume increases during the word Woooooooooo. The arms pump down on the word "Pig" and then back into the air on the word "Sooie." "Woooooooooo, Pig! Sooie!"

Auburn: "Rolling" Toomer's Corner
Toomer's Corner is where the university meets the town in Auburn. Originally, students unable to travel to away games would celebrate out-of-town wins symbolically by gathering at Toomer's Corner. And sometime in the '60s, students began to toilet paper the trees in Toomer's Corner.

Cal: Card stunts
The Cal rooting section is credited with establishing one of the most time-honored traditions in college football. Cal began performing card stunts for the 1910 "Big Game," a rugby match between California and Stanford. Cal students now perform as many as 10 different stunts, using more than 5,000 cards to create different images.

Georgia: Chapel bell
The chapel bell is rung after all Georgia victories and continues until midnight. The tradition began the 1890s when the football field was located only yards from the chapel. The chore used to be reserved for freshmen, but now students and alumni rush to the chapel after a football victory.

Mississippi State: Cowbells
One of the loudest traditions in college football is the Mississippi State University cowbell. Opponents and authorities have tried for years to banish the noisemakers from competition, but Bulldog fans keep bringing them anyway and ring them during the entire game.

Texas: Hook' em Horns hand signal
The Longhorns have by far the most famous hand signal in college football. The signal has been around since 1955 when cheerleader Harley Clark introduced it to the student body. The index and little fingers stick up, while the thumb held down the two interior digits, which looks like the head of a Longhorn.

USC: Traveler and the Trojan
One of the most breathtaking mascots in college football is Traveler at USC. A student in full Trojan dress rides into the stadium on a white horse as the Southern Cal band plays "Conquest."

Washington: Tailgating by boat
Husky Stadium's location on the shores of Lake Washington makes it easily accessible by boat from all over the Seattle area, and encourages many fans to use the water to travel to and from games. Members of the Husky crew team ferry fans to and from the shore to catch the action, or a ride home.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Python Bursts After Trying to Eat Gator
By DENISE KALETTE, Associated Press Writer

MIAMI - The alligator has some foreign competition at the top of the Everglades food chain, and the results of the struggle are horror-movie messy.

A 13-foot Burmese python recently burst after it apparently tried to swallow a live, six-foot alligator whole, authorities said.

The incident has heightened biologists' fears that the nonnative snakes could threaten a host of other animal species in the Everglades.

"It means nothing in the Everglades is safe from pythons, a top-down predator," said Frank Mazzotti, a University of Florida wildlife professor.

Over the years, many pythons have been abandoned in the Everglades by pet owners.

The gory evidence of the latest gator-python encounter — the fourth documented in the past three years — was discovered and photographed last week by a helicopter pilot and wildlife researcher.

The snake was found with the gator's hindquarters protruding from its midsection. Mazzotti said the alligator may have clawed at the python's stomach as the snake tried to digest it.

In previous incidents, the alligator won or the battle was an apparent draw.

"There had been some hope that alligators can control Burmese pythons," Mazzotti said. "This indicates to me it's going to be an even draw. Sometimes alligators are going to win and sometimes the python will win."

It is unknown how many pythons are competing with the thousands of alligators in the Everglades, but at least 150 have been captured in the past two years, said Joe Wasilewski, a wildlife biologist and crocodile tracker.

Pythons could threaten many smaller species that conservationists are trying to protect, including other reptiles, otters, squirrels, woodstorks and sparrows, Mazzotti said.

Wasilewski said a 10- or 20-foot python also could pose a risk to an unwary human, especially a child. He added, however, "I don't think this is an imminent threat. This is not a `Be afraid, be very afraid' situation.'"