You’ve heard all the jokes: this one time at band camp…band geeks…the Jim Rome debacle. But you’ve probably never really thought too much about marching band unless you’re a member. Bands are an integral part of a college football game; ask anyone at a Big 10 school. Marching bands are often as old as the football teams, and in some cases, they’re even older. This means that the history and traditions associated with the bands are as important to them as coffee is to Lorelai Gilmore. We ranked the top 10 marching bands with the most badass traditions. Did your band make the cut?
10. Auburn University Marching Band: R.A.T. Program
Auburn welcomes its new members with a program called the R.A.T. program (Rookie Auburn Tiger). Designed to help ease the transition from high school to college, the program assigns a R.A.T. mom to each freshman boy and a R.A.T. dad to each girl. Family duties: mentoring, marching and music help, campus directions, the works. Basically, the R.A.T. program gives you an automatic friend to help you figure out if that cute guy is flirting with you.
9. Boston College Screaming Eagles Marching Band: “Amazing Grace”
Before every single game, members of the BC Marching Band come together as a full ensemble to sing “Amazing Grace” and recite a psalm. From personal experience, I can say with confidence that it is the absolute best part of a BC game day. Every time we leave the Band Room, at least a few people have tears in their eyes (usually me).
Related Read: 10 Signs You’re a Boston College Alum
8. West Virginia University Mountaineer Marching Band: “Simple Gifts”
The Mountaineer Band incorporates Aaron Copeland’s “Simple Gifts” into their pre-game show. This beautiful song doesn’t really seem to fit the theme of pre-game (cue every pump-up montage in every sports film ever), but WVU’s fans love the tradition. So much so that when the Mountaineer Band Director decided to remove the song from pre-game one year, the backlash from the fans was so intense that he put it back into the show before the next game.
7. Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band (Texas A&M): Corps of Cadets
In order to join the largest military band in the nation, you have to become a member of the Corps of Cadets and complete both band and corps requirements. However, this does not mean you have to join the military. After your first two years in the corps, you decide whether or not you’d like to continue on a military path. If not, you become a “drill and ceremony” member. Joining the corps is a way for the Aggie Band to maintain its culture and preserve its history (while also gaining a majorly intimidating reputation).
6. Longhorn Band (University of Texas): Cowbells
As soon as the Longhorn Band members get to their spots in the stands each game day, everyone is given a cowbell. The entire Band will ring them when the opposing team has the ball, in order to make as much noise as possible and distract the offense…kind of like a musical “U-G-L-Y” chant.
5. The University of Wisconsin Marching Band: 5th Quarter
The Wisconsin Band has traditions cheaper by the dozen, but one of the best is their post game performance, lovingly dubbed the 5th Quarter by fans. Almost the entire stadium will stay in their seats for up to an hour to hear Wisconsin favorites like “On Wisconsin,” “Varsity” and “The Chicken Dance.” This tradition doesn’t have a zip code. The Band performs their famous 5th Quarter set almost everywhere they go, making sure everyone has just as much fun as they do at a football game.
4. All-American Marching Band (Purdue University): World’s Largest Drum
The All-American Band claims to have the largest drum in the world. It’s more than 10 feet tall without the carriage used to hold and transport it. Since its creation in 1921 (the carriage is built using the base and axels of a Ford Model T), the Big Bass Drum has been a staple of the All-American Band, appearing at all home games and many away games. Pause: Drumheads were once made from cow skin. Imagine how big those cows must have been.
3. University of Michigan Marching Band: Goal Post Toss
One of the most iconic songs that the Michigan Band performs during their pre-game is called “The Victors.” During this song, the drum major (the student conductor) tosses his or her baton through the goal post. Legend says that if the Drum Major is able to catch it on the other side, then Michigan will win the game. Don’t hold your breath; it normally gets dropped.
2. Ohio State Marching Band: Script Ohio
During their pre-game, the Ohio State Band forms the word Ohio in script writing. The coolest part is the dot of the I. Each game, a sousaphone player with at least four years of experience in the band, dots the “I.” The sousaphone player and the drum major will high five each other and then head toward the top of the “I.” The Drum Major will point at the spot and the sousaphone player steps into place, bowing at both end zones. This has become one of the most recognizable formations in collegiate marching band culture and the most important part of the Ohio State pre-game routine.
1. Spirit of Troy USC Trojan Marching Band: The Horse
The USC band is led into their pre-game by a horse. That’s right, a horse. The horse’s trainer wears a uniform that looks like a Trojan warrior suit, rather than the traditional marching band uniform. And the drum major wears one too. And they get to carry swords. Which they then stab into the field. Pretty sure it doesn’t get any cooler than that. Don’t believe me? Just watch.
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*Updated June 12 with a new video for University of Michigan.