From the Miami Hurricanes getting into by way of smoke to Traveler, the stay horse mascot of the USC Trojans, galloping the sidelines in Los Angeles, faculty soccer offers its followers with an expertise that’s fully its personal. Every campus, stadium and fan base has one thing totally different to supply to the common fan and every college thinks its traditions are second to none. Who higher to spotlight the distinctive tradition surrounding faculty soccer than a bunch of writers who’re devoted to the game and have seen almost each track, entrance and ambiance across the nation?
Forward of the 2021 season, a bunch of our writers got here collectively to debate their favourite scenes across the sport that may dominate fall Saturdays for the subsequent 4 months. Whether or not it is the perfect tailgate to drop by or the nicest — and least harmful — stay mascot to go to in individual, our writers have you ever lined on must-see faculty soccer bucket record.
For extra rankings, from ESPN’s preseason High 25 to top-five lists on finest traditions, faculty cities returning gamers and extra, take a look at our offseason particular, Faculty Soccer: The Energy Rankings on Tuesday night time (7 p.m. ET, ESPN and ESPN App.)
Andrea Adelson: Miami-Florida State. I’m biased right here, as a result of I grew up in South Florida within the Eighties throughout essentially the most iconic, hard-fought, all-or-nothing video games within the heyday of this rivalry – when nationwide championships had been decided based mostly solely on the results of this recreation. I take into consideration all the enduring moments, past Large Rights I, II and II, all of the unimaginable expertise and athleticism on the sector, the Miami mascot almost getting arrested in Tallahassee, and all of it jogs my memory as soon as once more why I really like faculty soccer a lot.
David Wilson: My dad took me to the Texas A&M-Texas recreation yearly regardless of having no allegiance to both group. Now that it is returning after greater than a decade aside (who is aware of when it will really occur once more), we will fondly bid farewell to its worst period, when it solely performed out on message boards and Twitter fights.
Alex Scarborough: I used to be inside Jordan-Hare Stadium for the “Kick Six” when Auburn turned a last-second discipline objective try by Alabama into maybe the wildest end to a soccer recreation ever. So you realize my reply right here: the Iron Bowl is the perfect rivalry the game has to supply. And what makes it nice is not simply the spectacular video games, of which there have been many, it is how the rivalry is a part of life within the state the opposite 364 days out of the 12 months. The competitors amongst groups and followers is relentless.
Chris Low: Rising up within the state of South Carolina at midnight ages again when radio was the way in which we adopted faculty soccer, the Clemson-South Carolina rivalry was performed year-round. Clemson followers reveled in reminding South Carolina followers that Heisman Trophy winner George Rogers by no means scored a landing in opposition to the Tigers. South Carolina followers rubbed it within the faces of Clemson followers when Steve Taneyhill defaced the Tiger paw at midfield of Loss of life Valley by pretending to signal it after a key landing in 1992. I nonetheless say “The Catch” by Jerry Butler in 1977 to present Clemson the win in Columbia is among the biggest catches I’ve ever seen, and I am going to all the time keep in mind the primary Clemson-South Carolina recreation I attended in individual — a 22-21 South Carolina win in 1984 and the Gamecocks’ first triumph on Clemson’s residence turf since 1970.
Adam Rittenberg: I really like the USC-Notre Dame rivalry, partly as a result of it lacks the everyday connections of others round faculty soccer. Apart from being personal colleges full of faculty soccer custom, particularly Heisman Trophy winners and nationwide championship groups, the colleges have little in frequent. I used to be all the time amazed when recruits would select between Notre Dame and USC, given the variations. I really like how matchups are both midseason in South Bend, or round Thanksgiving in Los Angeles. The 2005 recreation at Notre Dame will all the time be the most effective video games I’ve lined. You will have a tough time discovering two higher helmets within the sport, both.
Favourite faculty city
Wilson: I spent almost 10 years behind a desk in Bristol, CT, so I have not been to almost as many of those faculty cities as I need to. However I went to a recreation at Nebraska in 1998 as a fan and a few little previous women tapped me on the shoulder and requested me, “Excuse me… do not you will have any higher quarterbacks?” After the sport, they mentioned that the band was a minimum of good, and thanks for bringing them. Actually essentially the most viciously candy followers I’ve ever handled.
Low: Irrespective of what number of instances I am going there, I nonetheless get a heat nostalgic feeling each time I go to South Bend. Strolling throughout campus and seeing the solar gleaming off the Golden Dome and looking out up and seeing Landing Jesus’ outstretched arms within the shadow of Notre Dame Stadium make the journey worthwhile even earlier than the band cranks up its legendary battle track. This would be the thirtieth anniversary of my first journey to South Bend, and I can nonetheless hear all the Notre Dame alums sitting round on the previous Morris Inn and recounting epic tales from years passed by.
Rittenberg: I’ll by no means flip down a visit to Madison, Wisconsin, particularly throughout a recreation weekend. The city actually affords one thing for everybody. I really like strolling down State Road, testing the terrace at Memorial Union, strolling the hilly, lakefront campus or exploring the East Facet. There’s a lot to do exactly exterior town, too (extremely advocate Quivey’s Grove in Fitchburg). Wisconsin’s Camp Randall Stadium is tucked right into a neighborhood, and Regent Road and Breese Terrace are electrical earlier than and after Badgers video games. I’ve lined loads of memorable video games at Camp Randall — 2010 Ohio State stays one among my favorites — however Mad-town/Mad-city by no means disappoints.
Adelson: The soccer custom at Virginia may not be what it’s in South Bend, Madison or Nebraska, however Charlottesville, Va., is among the finest faculty cities in America. From the stainless — and historic Grounds — to the picturesque environment to the good meals, Charlottesville itself is a superb place to go to. However watching a recreation in Scott Stadium is a cool, and completely totally different expertise than in Camp Randall or the Massive Home. You will not discover 100,000 followers piled into the stadium, however fairly a extra intimate setting in a throwback ambiance, the place you may carry a blanket and sit on the garden behind one of many finish zones for an unimaginable (and distinctive) view.
Favourite stay mascot
Rittenberg: I met Uga on the Georgia-Auburn recreation in 2013, and received comparatively near Bevo at Texas a couple of years in the past. Each good decisions, however I’ve to go together with Ralphie the Buffalo. I really like the custom behind Ralphie and might’t wait to see her run round Folsom Subject earlier than a recreation in Boulder. Only a huge and majestic animal.
Tom VanHaaren: Uga will get all of the credit score, however I believe individuals are lacking out on Good-looking Dan. He’s the Olde English Bulldogge mascot at Yale … and his identify is Good-looking Dan. How will you choose in opposition to that? Given the college he represents and his identify, he can brag about being the smarter, higher trying model of Uga.
Low: OK, perhaps he is not Auburn’s “official” mascot, however with this being Spirit’s final season of pregame flights for Auburn residence soccer video games at Jordan-Hare Stadium, that is a simple alternative for me. Seeing the majestic bald eagle soar into the stadium as a part of the famed pregame festivities on the Plains is among the many issues that makes faculty soccer so distinctive. Here is to you Spirit in your well-earned retirement. What a flight it has been as you flip over your duties full time to your understudy, Independence, following the 2021 season.
Scarborough: If Mike the Tiger nonetheless entered the stadium on gameday there could be no debate right here. Opposing gamers would get bug eyes and freak out the primary time they noticed him on the sidelines in all his glory. I am not ashamed to say I did, too. His cell cage appeared secure, however I am sorry, that is a stay tiger and stay tigers usually do no matter they need. And despite the fact that Mike — solely one among two stay tiger mascots in faculty — stays in his enclosure beside Tiger Stadium, he is nonetheless a should go to earlier than each recreation.
Adelson: On my one and solely journey to Austin, Texas, in 2013, I’ll always remember the sounds of the police sirens wailing as I made my manner towards the stadium. It was an escort for Bevo. Followers lined the streets shouting, “Hook ‘Em!” on the iconic steer. I then received to hang around with Bevo for 2 hours pregame, chatting up his handlers whereas holding the suitable distance (Glad I did not have a bulldog mascot standing with me, if I am being sincere). It was one of many coolest (and barely terrifying) experiences.
Wilson: UConn will get bonus factors for having a Husky with a particularly atypical identify: Jonathan. Love Jonathan the canine. However I am a Texan and longhorns are a key a part of the state’s id and folklore. They usually’re cool as hell. Vote Bevo.
Favourite stadium entrance
Rittenberg: I’ve solely been to Clemson as soon as, however what a recreation I noticed: Clemson vs. Louisville in 2016. Deshaun Watson vs. Lamar Jackson. The Tigers’ run down the hill was completely electrical — my second favourite second subsequent to hugging Ryan McGee within the press field. But it surely’s arduous to prime the anticipation of the group taking the buses across the stadium, assembling at Howard’s Rock after which sprinting down the hill. Cannot wait to be again in Loss of life Valley. The 2 different Tiger Walks that I’ve witnessed (Auburn and LSU) aren’t too shabby, both.
Invoice Connelly: Clemson is unquestionably No. 1. The bus experience builds anticipation, and the hill itself provides some pretty “Oh man, what if one among them slips and falls?” anxiousness, too. It is excellent. Down the street in Columbia, I additionally very a lot benefit from the 2001: A Area Odyssey entrance, mixed with pre-kickoff Sandstorm.
Low: Clemson, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Virginia Tech do not get to have all of the enjoyable in the case of cool entrances. If you have not already, do your self a favor and take a look at East Carolina’s entrance. The video of the pirate on the JumboTron is nice. So is the purple smoke, and you then’ve additionally received the group operating out to Jimi Hendrix’s “Purple Haze.” Any time you get Hendrix and faculty soccer collectively, it is a can’t-miss present.
Adelson: Invoice, I’m not positive you might be allowed to love BOTH Clemson and South Carolina entrances with out haters coming your manner. I agree Clemson rocks, however nothing beats a sold-out, charged up Doak Campbell Stadium at night time earlier than a marquee Florida State residence recreation, when Chief Osceola rides Renegade to midfield and vegetation the flaming spear as 80,000 folks do the Seminole chop and chant away.
Wilson: Exhausting to prime Clemson, however that is well-documented right here. Nebraska’s Tunnel Stroll is each very appropriately named and in addition the right table-setter, watching a whole state get labored right into a frenzy ready for an opportunity to see its Huskers.
Dinich: I’ve run down The Hill — very rigorously — and there’s actually a component of hazard to it, a minimum of for me. However even higher than that’s standing on the sector for Enter Sandman at Virginia Tech’s Lane Stadium. Overlook the shaking press field (that occurs too) — the bottom below your toes strikes. Yeah, fan or not of the Hokies, it is a scene that provides you with chills.
David Hale: I am unable to consider nobody else has mentioned Georgia Tech. It is a 1930 Ford Mannequin A that’s on the breaking point always, driving throughout the sector and almost operating folks over within the course of. It is primarily Paul Johnson’s offense in mascot type. What’s to not like?
Favourite tailgate scene
Connelly: Again in 2003, I went all the way down to Shreveport as a result of Missouri was taking part in within the Independence Bowl. We received invited by an LSU fan to his tailgate, which was a fairly odd factor contemplating Missouri wasn’t taking part in LSU within the recreation. “No, however we had been simply seeking to get in some tailgating observe earlier than the Sugar Bowl,” he mentioned. That informed me all the pieces I wanted to know. I ate 12 totally different meats that day. I someway have not gotten the chance to tailgate in Baton Rouge but, however my requirements can be terribly excessive. And I am positive they may surpass all expectations.
Adelson: The one appropriate reply right here is LSU, the place you get an enormous tailgate crossed with a Mardi Gras celebration irrespective of the opponent, or the Tigers’ report, extending as far out as the attention can see from the stadium. As I sort this, I can simply odor a lot of what makes this such a singular spot, from the smoking meats and Jambalaya and sure — even alligator when Florida involves city.
Scarborough: Andrea is correct. It is LSU by an extended shot. I am unable to let you know what number of free cups of gumbo I have been handed by full strangers through the years. And each single time they have been good.
Low: The Grove is faculty soccer, from the generations of Ole Miss households and followers gathering below the large oak bushes and rows of tents and decked out of their best pink, white and blue apparel, to the chants of “Hotty Toddy” echoing throughout the ten acres of inexperienced grass in the course of campus, to the form of celebration that has been identified to trump the sport itself. Ole Miss final received a nationwide championship on the sector in 1960, however the Rebels win the tailgating nationwide title yearly.
Hale: It is LSU, and it is not shut. However let me put in a small plug for Miami. Certain, the Canes crowd will be sparse for lesser video games, and the stadium (what’s it known as now? Solar Life? Professional Participant? Land Shark?) is a 45-minute commute from campus. So it is not a daily on anybody’s “better of” lists. However when there is a massive recreation — notably if it is a Florida State recreation — the parking tons are as loopy an surroundings as there’s within the nation. Downright intimidating, really. I as soon as noticed Warren Sapp consuming a turkey leg at a random tailgate, and I swear, if it hadn’t crammed him up, he would possibly’ve eaten the folks round him. And, in fact, that is the massive takeaway right here: The meals. Tailgating fare can turn into fairly generic in all however a handful of cities, and Miami is among the locations that is distinctive and scrumptious — all the pieces from fried gator to carne asada to ceviche. Simply ensure that Warren Sapp is not close to your tailgate while you’re grilling.
Favourite in-game ambiance
VanHaaren: My solutions are somewhat biased towards the Massive Ten, as a result of these are the video games I are inclined to cowl in individual, however a Penn State white out at residence at night time is fairly unimaginable. I lined the 2018 recreation in opposition to Ohio State and the group was electrical. I took a video of my glass of water within the press field and it resembled the second in Jurassic Park when the T-rex was approaching, creating ripples within the water. The followers had been shaking the press field, they had been all in unison, all in white and so they had been relentless all the night time. I do not know the way anybody on the sector might hear something, as a result of the followers had been so into the sport.
Connelly: I have been at discipline degree for the top of a Nebraska recreation in Lincoln. The Huskers clinched the sport with a first-down run, and the sound the group made in response was so loud that it made me nearly lose my stability. The depth of the group there’s jarring, and that goes for whether or not issues are going nicely or poorly.
Wilson: Texas A&M nonetheless places the scholars (35,000 or so of them, for the nation’s largest scholar part) in prime seats. With organized yells, the Corps within the stands and followers standing and screaming and swaying sufficient to make the stadium transfer, it is one of many nice locations to observe a university soccer recreation.
Favourite distinctive in-game custom
VanHaaren: I have been within the press field at Camp Randall Stadium to witness Leap Round earlier than the fourth quarter and it’s a lot cooler in individual than on TV. I’ll say, it is also terrifying being within the press field, as a result of it was swaying because the followers had been leaping. I used to be fairly positive it was going to tip backwards at one level, however we survived. That reveals you ways many individuals are collaborating and what the influence actually is. After the preliminary shock of swaying within the press field wore off, I appeared round and to see the opposing group even becoming a member of in made it fairly enjoyable to observe.
Dinich: I nonetheless have the video on my cellphone I took once I was at Kyle Subject for the primary time, when Texas A&M hosted Auburn. I got here residence and confirmed it proper to my three boys as a result of it was such a singular, superior ambiance with the twelfth man. It begins when the corps of cadets marches into the stadium — a sight in contrast to some other in faculty soccer — after which continues proper into the stadium and thru the sport.
Low: Certain, there are in-game traditions that return a long time or extra. However nothing is extra touching than the “Kinnick Wave,” which started in 2017 with Iowa followers turning away from the sector on the finish of the primary quarter and waving to the youngsters watching from the home windows of the newly constructed College of Iowa’s Stead Household Youngsters’s Hospital that overlooks Kinnick Stadium. The kids will usually tape posters and indicators to the home windows of their rooms in assist of the group.
Scarborough: It is a comparatively new custom so perhaps it does not rank excessive on the lists on the market, but it surely’s arduous to search out something that may match the sensation when Florida performs Tom Petty’s hit “I Will not Again Down” between the third and fourth quarter. The sing-a-long that ensues is extra rock live performance than faculty soccer recreation. I used to be there the primary time they did it, in 2017, shortly after the demise of Petty, a Gainesville native, and I am going to always remember the emotion and power inside The Swamp that day.
Hale: Alex stole my reply. I truthfully suppose each college ought to simply choose a Tom Petty track and create a fourth-quarter custom from it. Kansas taking part in “Even the Losers” could be the perfect factor to occur to the Jayhawks since 2008.
Wilson: Give me “Dixieland Delight” at Alabama, with 100,000 followers shouting obscenities — about three totally different groups! Environment friendly! — in each nook and cranny of the track whereas Alabama pipes in sufficient sound to attempt to fake in any other case.
Rittenberg: I am going to always remember my first journey to Ohio Stadium as a university scholar in 2001, and seeing the script Ohio and the dotting of the i. The bands are such an enormous deal within the Massive Ten, and Ohio State’s BDBITL custom is difficult to beat. The construct towards the i dotting is unimaginable, and what a second for the senior sousaphone participant, who bows to all 4 sides of the stadium.
Adelson: How a couple of shout out to a new-school program that’s beginning to construct its historical past and custom? There’s a cause UCF’s soccer stadium is nicknamed “The Bounce Home.” When “Kernkraft 400” by Zombie Nation begins taking part in and 45,000+ followers begin leaping up and down, all the stadium actually bounces up and down. At night time, with mobile phone flashlights on, the scene is even cooler — and undoubtedly not for the faint of coronary heart.