May 13, 2013
The Best College Football Fight Songs In The USA
BY: Bob George/BosSports.net
You're getting old, and you really have no life, if you can remember the Norwood High School Band play Hail To The Patriots at old Schaefer Stadium in the mid-1970s.
It was a terrific fight song that simply never caught on. It never caught on because New England is a region that does not embrace college sports, and therefore, its traditions. The Beanpot hockey tournament means little to nothing outside of Boston. Boston College will make noise in BCS standings and March Madness, but only a limited amount of people actually pay attention. UMass is trying to make Division I football work, but it won't as long as you bring in opponents like Eastern Michigan, Bowling Green and Ohio U. that have zero appeal in New England, let alone anything other than total anonymity.
Fight songs work in the NFL, but they have to be presented to the fans and the rooting interests just right. Hail To The Redskins is perhaps the most famous. Bear Down, Chicago Bears works great, and many older folks remember the old Houston Oilers song, which is the same as thecurrent one in Miami. ESPN once commissioned a movie about the old Baltimore Colts Band and their stirring fight song, which has been rebranded the Ravens Fight Song.
Try as they might, the NFL songs simply cannot match the college tunes for tradition, endearment, loyalty to school, and the ability to sing it again and again for decade after decade. The collegiate songs are by and large older, more stirring, and more externally identifiable with the institution of higher learning they represent. The NFL simply doesn't have that sort of tradition. You may loathe the Stanford Band as a music purist, but anything they play is better than that God-awful song they play in San Diego at Chargers games.
If the NFL wanted to appeal to its member franchises to each come up with a "fight song", here is what they should be patterned after. These are this writer's choices as the best college football fight songs in the USA. They must be well known outside of their alumni body, they must represent football schools (with all due apologies to Duke, Georgetown and Louisville and all these other schools who flirt with the Final Four), and they must be songs which can stand the test of time without going stale.
These are the top ten college football songs in the nation. They will be presented in alphabetical order, for reasons that will be explained later.
"Yea Alabama", University of Alabama Performed by the UA Million Dollar Band, this march was composed in 1926 by Epp Sykes following the Crimson Tide's win over Washington in the Rose Bowl (thanks, Wikipedia). This march gained national popularity during the halcyon days of former head coach Paul "Bear" Bryant in the 1970s, and enjoys national acclaim today with the current success under Nick Saban. Despite the unbalanced verse pattern, it is a melody that is instantly recognizable with Alabama and Alabama football.
"Orange and Blue", University of Florida UF came into national prominence recently because of the success of both their football and basketball teams. Their fight song goes back to 1916, with music set to lyrics in 1925 by George Hamilton (thanks again, Wikipedia), many years before they invented Gatorade at Florida Field. Through all their BCS appearances, their fight song has crept into the national consciousness, and it has a tune that you can whistle even though you may despise the fact that Florida is literally the power base of college football in the USA.
"Ramblin' Wreck from Georgia Tech", Georgia Tech University This song is so popular in its own right, Mitch Miller and the Gang sang it on one of their sing-along albums of the 1960s. The football team doesn't get the props that its fellow southeastern schools do, but the song is one of the most famous in college football. If you know the song, you'll then understand why there is a dispute over whether the sports teams should be called Yellowjackets or Engineers.
"The Victors", University of Michigan This is why this list is presented in ABC order. In fairness, this writer is a degree holder from this university. But like Michigan or not, this song is one of the two most famous collegiate songs ever written. Louis Elbel gets the credit for this one, writing it in 1898 after a win by Michigan over the University of Chicago. Few college football fans can listen to this song and not know which university it represents. This writer will not reveal if this march would have been at number one if the list were ordered. Why? Because…
"Notre Dame Victory March", University of Notre Dame This one could top the list also. This is the other "most famous march in America". Any list of any repute would have to list Michigan and Notre Dame as one-two in either order. Anyone in America could recognize this famous tune, written by Rev. Michael J. Shea in the late 1920s. The Fighting Irish made it back to national prominence by making it to the BCS title game in 2012, but their fight song has always been right up there as one of the finest.
"Rocky Top", University of Tennessee This song is fun to listen to, if you can forget that Peyton Manning went here. Based on the recognizable Bluegrass tune made famous by, among others, the Osborne Brothers, the huge crowds at Neyland Stadium go crazy when they hear it. The Bluegrass element is what gives it national recognition. It is interesting to note that this song, written in 1967 and first performed by the UT Band in 1972, is not the "official" fight song of the Volunteers (thanks still again, Wikipedia). But schools like Ohio State, Illinois and Iowa have more than one song they play at games for scoring plays and first downs, so "Rocky Top" counts on this list.
"Texas Fight", University of Texas Most people think "The Eyes of Texas Are Upon You" is the Longhorn fight song. Instead, it's this one which requires a top notch trombone section to pull it off correctly. The exact date of composition is unclear, but it was written by Col. Walter Hunnicutt and James King in response to a similar song written by cross-state rival Texas A&M (you're hot tonight, Wikipedia). The march resembles a bugle call, but the finish by the smears of the trombone section give it its unique appeal.
"Sons of Westwood", UCLA This is one of the most nationally underrated fight songs in the USA, but should be recognized by a host of college football fans nationwide. The song has roots at UC-Berkeley, and was adopted by UCLA in 1969 after a copyright infringement lawsuit was settled between the two schools (yes, you guessed it, Wikipedia again). The song is noted for its chromatic beginning, and its rise and fall in volume after the first eight measures of the melody. High schools in California like this song also, and some have adopted it as their own.
"Fight On USC", University of Southern California For a city that hates the NFL, Los Angeles has the market cornered on the college version, and one of the keenest rivalries in the nation. The bands and fight songs are right in there with the football teams. The tune "Salute To Troy" played between plays gets old quickly, but the fight song is simple, fresh and well written. It gives the casual Trojan observer a nice feel for USC, the reverse of what "Troy" does, which is drive you crazy at times if you aren't a USC fan.
"On Wisconsin", University of Wisconsin Another underrated song, this tune is very recognizable and is limited only by the lack of national appeal of its university. The tune was composed by William Purdy in 1909. It is the official state song of Wisconsin. You've perhaps heard it in cheese commercials some years back. But it is a terrific song, known by many, and deserving of being one of the best in the nation. On a critical note, someone needs to tell their band director to stop playing the dotted quarter notes too staccato (ask a music teacher what all that means), as it takes away from the full impact of the march.
Well, that's it. As the MLB Network likes to say, "That's our list. What's yours?"
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