College Football: Top 20 Fight Songs

Justin Goar@@tigertangentsSenior Writer IJune 11, 2008

Okay, this is the time of year that is just agonizing for you die-hard College Football fans—the time of year between spring ball and summer practice, and a month before EA Sports’ NCAA ’09 hits stores.

Yes, I am a 32-year-old gamer.  Okay, “gamer” may be a little strong, but I’m a big nerdy guy who enjoys sports video games after his wife falls asleep.  I’m that guy who goes to the midnight release at his local game store and takes the next day off work to play it.

Somehow, my wife stays married to me.

When you play NCAA, the background menu music includes most of the free world’s college fight songs.  If you log enough hours trying to build your dynasty or take your created player to the top of the draft class like I do, then you know almost every important college fight song in the nation.  Problem is, you may not know that you know these songs.

I can’t tell you how many games I’ve watched on ESPN on a Thursday night when Louisville is taking on Rutgers or some similar matchup, when all of a sudden I hear said school’s band strike up and I can hum every note.  I never even realized I knew Louisville’s fight song!

Honestly though, I probably know more than your average bear when it comes to school fight songs.  So in order to kill time until NCAA ’09 comes out, I figured that I would weigh in with a Top 20 list of the best college fight songs in order to create discussion—but more than likely it'll just tick off about 80% of the people who read it.

So to preface the list, keep a few things in mind:

1)  I’m not, nor ever was, a student of music.  I’m just a guy with a pair of ears that knows what he likes.

2)  The songs below are official fight songs, not songs associated with a college, so songs like Alma Maters, Chants, or adopted songs like “Hang On Sloopy” or “Country Roads” would not qualify for this list—but maybe I’ll do another list soon.

3)  This is only a countdown of Division I-A (or Bowl Subdivision) schools. So while the Ivy League has some great tradition and HBC’s have the best performers, they don’t qualify.  I also left out the service academies because they are all winners in my book.

4)  I listened to every single fight song in Division I-A just as a refresher. This is the most time I’ve ever spent researching an article…ever!

5)  Lastly, I posted a link for each song underneath its ranking. If the link opens in the same window as this article, just hit “Back” on your browser after the song to get back here. I know you know this—I’m mainly writing this for my Mom, who would be stuck after No. 20.

EDIT: Links may not work. Open a second browser window and cut and paste in address line to listen. Mom, just call me later—I'll go through it step by step. 

On a side note, I had no idea my high school fight song, “Go Big Skippers,” was actually “On Wisconsin.”  I felt cheated when I got to college and found out that the song, which was a staple on Friday nights and at pep rallies in my high school years, was just some Weird Al version of an already existing song.

Well, I hope you can agree with at least part of the list, or at the minimum understand where I’m coming from.  I know you won’t agree with everything, so I’d love to hear your feedback on what you would have done without calling me vulgar names.  So warm up your flute and line up your drums because here we go.

First off, it doesn’t feel right doing college rankings and not having a Top 25, so:

Honorable mention

No. 25 Iowa

No. 24 SMU

No. 23 Kentucky

No. 22 East Carolina

No. 21 Arizona

Other receiving votes: Toledo, Wyoming, Tulane, and Minnesota

No. 20 West Virginia

OK, I have to admit that having a male baton twirler in a band may be a bold move.  But I’m not going to argue with a bunch of coal miners.  Besides, West Virginia is a hard state to draw on paper, yet the band can form it on the field. At least I think they do—I’m not 100% sure how West Virginia is shaped.  Either way, that takes talent while playing a catchy fight song.

No. 19 Mississippi State

The only reason this song makes the list is that it gets stuck in my head.  “Hail State” is like the last song you hear on the radio before you go to work or class.  It’s infectious, from what the doctor tells me, and it’s hard to clear up.  In fact, I have a fever, and the only prescription is “more cowbell.”  Saw that coming a mile away, didn’t you?

No. 18 Miami

Thankfully 2 LiveCrew and Vanilla Ice had nothing to do with the U’s fight song. It’s a pretty simple tune, but then again so was “Ice Ice Baby,” except this time there was no sampling a Queen and David Bowie song.

Also, special thanks to Gloria Estefan, Trick Daddy, and DJ Magic Mike for having nothing to do with this song either.  Actually, the fact that this song rose out of the same birthplace as all the above artists is a modern miracle.

No. 17 UCLA

I don’t know why, but when I hear the “Sons of Westwood” I think of some Japanese lady on a unicycle balancing plates on a twenty-foot pole (just listen to the song).  It’s fine if it doesn’t make sense to you—you probably haven’t been to enough basketball halftime shows.

Of course that makes me think of my favorite basketball halftime show, “Quick Change.”  I think watching “Quick Change” while baked would totally blow one’s mind.  Despite the visual image, UCLA has a pretty well-known and unique fight song.  Time to take my Ritalin. (BTW, sorry Cal fans.)

No. 16 Florida

Being as objective as I can (Me no likey the Gators), I have to say that Florida has a quality fight song.  “The Pride of the Sunshine” sure does get on my nerves with that “Get up and Go” chant, but fight song “Orange and Blue” is definitely a keeper.  With the success of the program in the last two decades, no doubt you’ve heard it at some point while watching the Gators play.

No. 15 Ohio State

“The Best Damn Band in the Land” is famous for dotting the "I” but also for its fight song “Fight the Team Across the Field.”  You pretty much have to like a band that sneaks a curse word into their title.

Fight song lyrics tend to be simple and monosyllabic.  But the Bucks add the word “reverberating” into the fray.  All of a sudden it’s like, whoa, what’s with the hundred dollar words, pal?  I was swimming in a sea of “rahs” and “hoorays” and they throw “reverberating” in there.  Nicely done.

And just for the record, I like Florida at No. 15 and OSU at No. 16—but haven’t the Buckeyes suffered enough?

No. 14 Wake Forest

Nothing says “fight song” like bass drum exclamations.  “Here’s to Wake Forest” has got them in spades.  Wake Forest making the list is probably an upset in its own right, but this team knows a lot about that with its rise to prominence in the ACC.

What I didn’t know was that Wake’s original mascot was the “Fighting Baptists,” which kind of sounds funny.  I mean, Baptists don’t drink, so how apt were they to get into fights in the first place?  But then I thought if someone told me I couldn’t drink ever again, I’d probably punch them in the face, so maybe it works.

No. 13 Ball State

Talk about upsets!  Ball State proves with “Fight Team Fight” you don’t need original lyrics for a good fight song.  It’s a “Fight Fight…onward now…bring colors...victory…yada yada yada” kind of song.  But the music is great.  And when it comes down to it, this kind of song is what this list is all about.  It’s always nice to see a mid-major make some noise.

No. 12 LSU

You may call this a biased pick since I’m an alum, but “Fight for LSU” is an energetic foot tapper that probably doesn’t draw the praise it deserves.  Playing fourth fiddle to the spine-tingling, goose bump producer known simply as “Pregame,” the sing along go-to “Hey Fighting Tigers,” and the traditional spelling exercise “Tiger Rag,” “Fight for LSU” is a rousing treat—probably one of the most underrated songs on this list.

My friends will give me guff for putting them outside the Top Ten, but once again, I'm trying to be objective as I can.  Howard Schnellenberger would probably vote the song No. 87.

No. 11 Alabama

My LSU brethren will probably scold me for putting this tune on the list—ahead of LSU no less—but I have to try to be as objective as possible.  The “Million Dollar Band” (you should see what they pay for their athletes. Bah-zinnngg!!!) produces this little ditty that exudes all that is good about the south.  A song that is as traditional as “The Bear” himself, I honestly can’t hear it start without finishing it in my head.  God, I feel dirty.

No. 10 Wisconsin

Quite simply put, “On Wisconsin” is a fight song template that is often copied and never duplicated (I’m looking at you Mandeville High!).

Wait a minute!  I just found out that “On Wisconsin” was originally a song composed for a contest at the University of Minnesota, and the song’s composer was convinced to let a man named Carl Beck use it for his school UW.  Beck rewrote the lyrics and the name was changed from “Minnesota, Minnesota” to “On Wisconsin.”

What a dirty little secret!  Wow, this song is like a hot chick with a shady past.  Now I’m really hooked.

No. 9 USC

You won’t see me cheering for the Trojans anytime soon, but USC’s band, known as “The Spirit of Troy” is tabbed as “The Greatest Marching Band in the History of the Universe.”  Well, that’s what USC calls them anyway.  Hey guys, by the way, modesty is a virtue.

But outside of all the self touting, “Fight On” has got to be a staple in your Fight Song Soundtrack.  In addition, the band is the Snoop Dogg of marching bands, appearing in absolutely everything—movies, TV shows, award shows, and the youngest Lowenstein boy’s bar mitzvah.  He’s such a good boy that one. 

A side note: “The Spirit of Troy” played the Alabama band in “Forrest Gump.”  That’s such a shame because this was a totally believable movie before I learned this little piece of info.  My world is now shattered.

No. 8 Oklahoma

OK, another dirty little secret: “Boomer Sooner” is actually taken from “Boola Boola,” the Yale fight song.  But as we’ve seen so far, how many of these songs are actually original?  Plus, I don’t get many Yale games on my TV.

“Boomer Sooner” is a short song with a great ending.  No frills, that’s what I like.  Also, the song makes me think of the plains, covered wagons, and women in bonnets and ankle-length dresses.  And if that doesn’t get you excited, I don’t know what will.

No. 7 Virginia Tech

“Triumph” has the same militaristic undertones as A&M’s “Aggie War Hymn"—fitting since both schools have military academy history.  VT made the trek down to Baton Rouge this past season and were great guests that were fun to party with.  Plus, how can you go wrong with lyrics like:

No. 6 Notre Dame

I’m no domer sympathizer, but “The Notre Dame Victory March” is probably the most recognizable fight song in all of college football.  With a catchy tune that sounds at home in a football stadium just as much as it does in a victory parade, I couldn’t leave this song off the list.  Omitting it would be impossible.  This is truly a song for the conquering hero.

Plus, any fight song that appears in the movie “Airplane” is alright with me.

No. 5 Texas A&M

First off, I have to give you my true feelings on TAMU.  I think it’s a cult.  There, I said it—now let’s move on.

Despite the school’s summer camp vibe, the “Aggie War Hymn” is a great blend of college fight song and militaristic march.  What’s disturbing is that the song’s entire lyrics are based on the organ envy of another school.  At least I think it’s disturbing—it could make it one of the most telling factors in just how good the A&M-UT (ahem, sorry Aggies, I meant TU) rivalry is.

Also, fans of the 12th man will be happy to know that the T-sips don’t appear in my Top 25. But don’t worry Horns—take solace in the fact that I cheer for you guys in just about every Lonestar Showdown.

No. 4 Oregon

When you think of a slow yet powerful prodding march, you probably don’t think of Oregon.  But “Mighty Oregon” is one of my personal faves.  It almost sounds suited to a military academy—instead it represents a Disney character and the worst uniforms in college football.  Go figure.  The Ducks, however, should stand proud for having one of the best fight songs in the nation.

No. 3 Georgia Tech

If this were a list of most-fun-fight-songs, “Ramblin' Wreck” would be at the top.  It’s truly a song that should always be associated with Saturdays in the fall.  I do wonder about when this song was written—how many choices of words did they try that rhymed with “Tech” before they settled on “wreck”?

I think after countless hours of debate and coffee and cigarette chasers, they went “OK, ‘wreck’ is a term that’s usually bad, but we’re gonna make it good.”  Everyone agreed and called it a night.  I think it worked.  (Actual history may vary.)

No. 2 Rice

First off, how could you not love the “Marching Owl Band,” more affectionately known as “The MOB”?  With the exception of the “Golden Band from Tigerland,” they are my favorite college band in the universe.  They turn their noses up at tradition and mock other schools.  If USC thinks sunglasses make you cool, then an entire band dressed like Jake and Elwood Blues is legendary.

They’ve got a great fight song to boot.  I once attended a Texas A&M-Rice game in College Station, and the MOB greeted the A&M band with a mock Nazi salute.  I’ve loved them ever since.

No. 1 Michigan

OK, I know what you’re gonna say.  I made it through this whole list to get to Michigan?  The obvious choice?!  I’m so sorry to disappoint, but when it comes to fight songs, “The Victors” is “Stairway to Heaven,” “Billie Jean,” and “Hound Dog” all rolled into one.

I know the lyrics are a little cocky and pretentious, but isn’t that the point of fight songs?  A mission statement of how much better my school is than yours set to music?  This is a list of my favorite fight songs, and for me, “Victors” is a little bit better than everyone else's.

If I made a mistake with any facts, such as one of these songs not technically being the school’s official fight song, I apologize.  I tried really hard to hold that line, run up the score, and go onward to victory.

Well, that’s the list—now go, fight, and win!


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