#KSUOWLNATION: Learning About Tradition
Tradition and pageantry is what makes college athletics stand apart from any other athletic event. It’s the marching band’s traditional step. It’s coaches and players walking to the stadium along streets lined with cheering fans. It’s the pre-game ceremonies that include bands playing fight songs and mascots parading around the field. It’s the feeling of the stadium shaking beneath your feet as the theme song pounds through the P.A. system. It’s the sound of fans erupting as the players blast onto the field with wild energy staking claim to their home turf. It’s the chants and yells during the game that brings the crowd together. It’s the moment the third quarter ends and the bells toll, the thunder booms, and the players hold up four fingers in acknowledgment that their job is not yet done. It’s the roar of victory and the bitterness of defeat. It’s the team gathering in front of the student section after a game to honor their role in the battle and sing the Alma Mater. It’s college football, and it’s coming to Kennesaw State. What will make our experience unique? What will we recognize as the “Owl Yell?’ How will we gather in victory? How will we gather in defeat? What will be Kennesaw State’s tradition? All these answers lay at the feet of the Kennesaw State students and alumni. It’s time to look at and learn what tradition is all about.
Tradition is usually handed down from generation to generation to build upon, but keep the core idea entact. Kennesaw State is a relatively young university that has exploded onto the academic and athletic scene. October 9, 1963 is the birthday of our Alma Mater, with Horace Sturgis serving as the school’s first president. It officially opened its doors in 1966 as Kennesaw Junior College. That isn’t a lot of time to take an idea and turn it into tradition. Especially since, Kennesaw State didn’t have an athletic department until 1983. Thirty years later, the Owls have won five national championships at the NCAA Division II level and made a grand entrance into Division I. In 2006, the Owls soccer team won the Atlantic Sun Conference in its first year of competition at the NCAA D-1 level and repeated in 2007 earning a trip to the NCAA Women’s Soccer Championships. Owls Baseball made the stride into D-1 play in 2006 and has an overall record of 235-205 since the move. Head Coach Mike Sansing led the team to back-to-back appearances in the Atlantic Sun Conference Championship game in 2012, 2013. They also added wins against the University of Georgia, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, Tennessee, Memphis, and Auburn since moving to D-1. Although the basketball team has struggled recently, they already have notched a storied victory over Georgia Tech in front of the home crowd. In 2013, they are positioned to be much improved and should have a shot at the Atlantic Sun title. But, with 20 years of athletic history behind them, tradition has not had time to really blossom.
In 2011, the real start of tradition began with the unveiling of the Kennesaw State Fight Song. It has yet to be named anything but The KSU Fight Song, but it has the potential to be a cornerstone of a long standing tradition. The composer, Dr. James Sochinsk, built in college pageantry with the lyrics such as “We bring the fight,” and “from the mountain we bring spirit,” as well as, “Kennesaw, it’s on to victory.” The problem is that most students don’t know Kennesaw State has a fight song, and they have no idea what the words are. This lack of spirit leads to awkward moments, like at the announcement of KSU football when the fight song was played and the mumbling of the crowd made it abundantly clear we had a long way to go.
So, with the football program in its infancy, a soccer and baseball program that is already successful, and a basketball program that has as much potential as ever, Kennesaw State is set on the athletes’ side. They just need to perform. After all, winning is still everything. But, now it’s the student and the alumnus that have to take charge and begin what will be tradition at Kennesaw State. To help them out, here are some of the greatest traditions in college athletics.
The most inspiring pregame traditions occur hours before kickoff, sometimes more than 12 hours before. Texas A&M holds cheering practice for students and the band. They call it the Midnight Yell. The night before a home game students and alumni gather at Kyle Field to practice their traditional calls and be introduced to new yells. The practice is led by a select group of students called the Yell Leaders. The Midnight Yell begins at the 24th hour and includes the marching band tuning up for game day and an appearance by Reville, the Aggies live bull mascot. In addition to spirit songs, two fables are told about how Texas A&M is going to beat their next opponent. Approximately 20,000 to 25,000 fans attend the Midnight Yell. With Kennesaw State having an Owl as a mascot, a Midnight Hoot might catch on.
On game day, the tradition of players and coaches walking to the stadium has brought the fan base closer to the team. The Georgia Bulldogs meet their fans on game day as they walk with the Redcoat Band from outside the Tate Student Center as they enter Sanford Stadium. The tradition was started by Vince Dooley, but was discontinued in the Ray Goff era. Head football coach Mark Richt re-introduced the Dawg Walk in 2001. Since this tradition was started by Vince Dooley, who lead KSU’s football exploratory committee, don’t be surprised if the Owls don’t start their game day with The March of the Black & Gold in to Fifth-Third Bank Stadium.
Thankfully, the time honored tradition of tailgating is alive and well on college campuses. There really is nothing better than sitting around a grill with friends and sharing Brats and beer chatting about all aspects off football. There is no better place to tailgate than in Oxford, Mississippi in The Grove. Rebel fans dress up in their “Saturday’s best” to cheer on Ole Miss while surrounded by 10 acres of Oak, Elm, and Magnolia trees. The Grove was named as the “Holy Grail of tailgating” spots by the Sporting News. A place where fans used to park RVs and automobiles has given way to 20,000 pop up tents. The Grove is a place where families for generations come and enjoy great food and Ole Miss football.
In the Stadium
One of the most important aspects of the college football experience occurs inside the stadium. Not the actual game, but the pageantry in the atmosphere. Without question the playing of Enter Sandman at Virginia Tech as 90,000 Hokie fans bounce up and down shaking the foundation of Lane Stadium is the most impressive entrance in college football.
But, there are many others that stir the spirit and passion of their fans and impress other watching. The War Eagle chant of Auburn as the Golden Eagle flies around the stadium is another impressive display of school spirit and tradition. Michigan State’s marching band is solely responsible for setting the tone for Spartans’ games. The band enters the field with a drum core pounding and the entire band in a kick step. The drum majors rush in front of the band and do a back bend touching the plume on their helmet to the ground and rise up right. The band then forms a giant S on the field and move in unison across end-zone to end-zone. It’s an amazing site to see the precision in which they move. Rachel Linsmeier, a drum major for Michigan State, said, “we strive for perfection to intimidate.” The marching band at Michigan State is as much a part of the football game as the players. Kennesaw State should take note as they stand to form a 250-person marching band. The Owls marching band has to be a major part of the game day experience to set the atmosphere for fans.
The Chants, Yells, and Hands
Great game day experiences come as student and alumni sing fight songs, chant in unison, and wave their hands in victory. UCLA is a great example of how a simple cheer can strike the fire of excitement into their fans. The 8-Clap cheer is simple and easy to learn. It begins with counting aloud eight claps then “U-C-L-A, UCLA, fight, fight, fight!” It is a part of Bruins tradition that fans all over the world recognize and will join in when they hear it.
Another great college tradition is at Kansas University. KU took liberty with the traditional wave at football stadiums. They call it the Waving Wheat. Fans move together with their hands in the air simulating the breeze hitting the wheat of the Kansas plains. This easy movement is for Jay Hawk fans to do after a KU touchdown. They also have the Rock-Chalk Jay Hawk chant. There is no mistaking the sound of students and alumni yelling the Rock-Chalk Jay Hawk. Both have created a fun atmosphere at the Kansas Jay Hawks sporting events. The key to the success of these chants and movements is the fans know when to do them. A really interesting tactic for making KU chants and waves a tradition is the release of their spirit YouTube series. Any fan can go to YouTube and find the traditions and chants to be prepared on game day.
A lot goes into college sporting events. Athletic departments all over the country want to make their experience stand out against the others. Many schools have done a great job. Georgia Tech and the 1930 Model A is a classic entrance for a football team. At Tennessee, the playing of Rocky Top builds pride in fans. The cow bells that rattle for 60 minutes during a football game at Mississippi State. The dotting of the I in Ohio by the band at Ohio State is another fine example of tradition. Toledo’s cannon, University of Virginia’s Wah-hoo-wah chant, Hawaii’s Haka Warrior chant, and Purdue’s huge bass drum are all examples of the traditions and pageantry that make college sports feel like no other sporting event. Now it is Kennesaw State’s turn to build on ideas that become tradition and create what many crave, pride in being a Kennesaw State Owl.