Under the radar SEC football traditions
Part of what makes college football special is the pageantry and the spectacle of, well, a Saturday down south.
There are plenty of traditions that add to that tapestry, and the SEC has its share of iconic ones.
Mississippi State has its cowbells, Arkansas calls the hogs, Ole Miss has the Grove, Georgia has its hedges and Auburn has the rolling of the oaks at Toomer’s Corner (which happily will be back this fall).
There’s the 12th man and the Midnight Yell at Texas A&M, Saturday nights in Baton Rouge and, dare we say, the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party. There’s “Rammer Jammer,” “Rocky Top” and the Vol Navy. The list goes on.
But there are other traditions around the league that, while less well known, still add flavor to the land’s best football conference. Here are a few fun ones that you may not know about:
MISSOURI’S ROCK M
At Faurot Field, you’ll find the Rock M — a 90-foot wide and 95-foot high fixture in the north end zone since 1927.
Freshmen students built the M from rocks left over from the construction of what was then called Memorial Stadium, and it’s hard to miss on a Saturday in Columbia — unless it’s covered up by fans who watch the games from that hill.
Every year, the freshman class carries on the tradition of whitewashing the rocks to get them ready for a new season. That gives them a chance to knock out two Tiger traditions (the other being kissing the 50-yard line) in the same day.
SOUTH CAROLINA’S COCKABOOSE RAILROAD
Fifty yards from Williams-Brice Stadium sits the Cockaboose Railroad, where 22 rail cars adorned in school colors sit on a track that leads to nowhere but tailgating fun.
It all started in 1990, according to ESPN, when Columbia businessman Ed Robinson bought the tracks, installed the cars and then sought prospective owners for them.
The cars originally sold for $40,000 each, but now that they’re fully equipped with kitchens, TVs and all the other tailgating necessities, the asking price runs closer to $300,000 — and there’s a waiting list for prospective buyers.
“My wife likes to say, ‘We don’t have mahogany cabinets in our home, but we have them here,'” Bob Davis, the owner of car No. 10, told the New York Times in 2014.
It’s probably easier to score an invite to a party inside a Cockaboose than it is to buy one, but it still looks like fun.
KENTUCKY’S CALL TO THE POST
It’s no surprise that Kentucky football has a tradition that ties into horse racing. But before kickoff at Commonwealth Stadium, a trumpet blares “The Call to the Post,” which is the same tune you’ve heard if you’ve ever seen a horse race.
It only last a few seconds, but what better tribute could there be to a sporting day in Kentucky than that?
THE CHAPEL BELL, GEORGIA
The Bulldogs have their share of traditions, but one of the lesser known ones outside of Athens is the ringing of the Chapel Bell after victories.
According to the school’s website for athletics, the chapel was close to the football field in the 1890s and first-year students would rush over and ring the bell until midnight to celebrate wins. That tradition continues to this day, and it’s no longer limited to freshmen.
A 2007 win over Florida resulted in some overzealous tugging on the bell rope, causing the bell to fall. A new yoke and tower were constructed the following spring, leaving the bell ready for future chiming.
FLORIDA’S “WE ARE THE BOYS”
Florida fans have been belting out this tune since the late 1930s, and for the last 40 years or so, it’s been a fixture between the third and fourth quarters at the Swamp.
We are the boys from old Florida
F – L – O – R – I – D – A
Where the girls are the fairest,
the boys are the squarest
of any old state down our way. (Hey!)
We are all strong for old Florida,
down where the old Gators play. (Go Gators!)
In all kinds of weather,
we’ll all stick together, for
F – L – O – R – I – D – A
Like “The Call to the Post,” it’s quick, it’s simple and fans know when to expect it. That’s what makes it fun.