Traditions of the Big Ten Schools
In 1895, the nation’s top ten athletic public universities formed the Big Ten Conference to create standards for intercollegiate athletics.
Now, the Big Ten incorporates fourteen different schools in 11 different states, from New Jersey to Indiana. The Big Ten is organized by West and East Divisions and incorporates more than 450 teams across the nation.
The Big Ten schools compete in the NCAA Division I and their football teams are active in the Football Bowl Subdivision. The most popular sports in the Big Ten Conference that are NCAA sanctioned are men’s and women’s basketball, golf, tennis, track and field, men’s football, baseball, wrestling, women’s cross country, volleyball, softball, and soccer.
Aside from athletics, the Big Ten institutions prioritize community and academics. All the schools are major research universities with strong academic programs.
The Big Ten Conference boasts their own traditions in preparation for game day including fight songs, marching bands, and tailgates from each of the schools.
1. Indiana University – Bloomington
Indiana University – Bloomington is located in Bloomington, Indiana with campus colors of crimson and cream and a mascot of the Hoosier.
Indiana University (IU) is a public school founded in 1820 and joined the East Division of the Big Ten in 1899. IU has an enrollment of 43,710.
Before every game, the head coach of the football team (currently Tom Allen) touches a giant limestone boulder known as “The Rock” for good luck. Now renamed “Hep’s Rock” after Terry Hoeppner, this symbol represents good luck and community at IU and Hoeppner’s incredible support to the football program.
Another tradition starting from a small band of students in the late 1800s has now developed into a world renowned and internationally acclaimed marching band. The Marching Hundred is IU’s marching band that started with 22 students and now has a block size of 100.
Before each football game, the Marching Hundred serenades the players and crowd with IU fanfare. Indiana University’s fight songs are “IU Fanfare and Indiana, Our Indiana”, “Indiana Fight!”, “Hail to Old IU”, and “Chimes Of Indiana.”
2. University of Maryland – College Park
University of Maryland – College Park is located in College Park, Maryland with campus colors of red, white, gold, and black and a mascot of the Terrapins.
University of Maryland (UMD) is a public school founded in 1856 and joined the East Division of the Big Ten in 2014. UMD has an enrollment of 41, 200.
A tradition loved by the students at UMD is the flag unfurling where two giant Maryland state flags are unfurled at the beginning of every football and basketball game. At the same time, the “2001: A Space Odyssey” theme song plays. Another favorite tradition is the Flash Mob, a choreographed dance known to all students.
3. University of Michigan – Ann Arbor
University of Michigan – Ann Arbor is located in Ann Arbor, Michigan with campus colors of blue and maize gold and a mascot of the Wolverines.
University of Michigan (UMich) is a public school founded in 1817 and joined the East Division of the Big Ten in 1896. UMich has an enrollment of approximately 46,000.
One of University of Michigan’s most beloved traditions is the wearing of the winged helmet. This protective headgear used to be plain black with a brown leather helmet but is now Herbert “Fritz” Crisler’s design of a blue helmet with a maize yellow wing and three stripes. Decorative and iconic, the winged helmet helps the quarterback find his receivers.
The legacy and design of the winged helmet has passed onto UMich’s ice hockey, baseball, and crew teams. The Michigan Marching Band leads iconic rituals and performances during the game, at halftime, and after.
Michigan’s fight song “The Victors” is played throughout the game along with other routines, including a Hawaiian War Chant on special occasions.
4. Michigan State University
Michigan State University is located in East Lansing, Michigan with campus colors of green and white and a mascot of the Spartans.
Michigan State University is a public school founded in 1855 and joined the East Division of the Big Ten in 1950. Michigan State University has an enrollment of approximately 50,000.
A terra cotta statue used to stand outside the Spartan Stadium. Now, a bronze replica stands at the corner of Kalamazoo Street and Red Cedar Round. This statue ends the football team’s walk from the Kellogg Center hotel to Spartan Stadium and is the last sight before entering the stadium. The team rubs the statue’s foot and leaves pennies for good luck before the game.
Michigan State University’s mascot comes to life as “Sparty,” a costumed mascot introduced in the 1989 football season. Sparty is a muscular human warrior wearing green and white who dances with the MSU cheerleaders and gets the crowd going.
5. Pennsylvania State University
Pennsylvania State University is located in State College, Pennsylvania with campus colors of navy blue, sky blue, and white and a mascot of the Nittany Lions.
Pennsylvania State University (Penn State) is a public school founded in 1855 and joined the East Division of the Big Ten in 1990. Penn State has an enrollment of approximately 47,000.
A statue of Penn State’s mascot, the Nittany Lion, was donated by the Class of 1940. This statue was carved by Heinze Warnecke from a 13-ton block of Indiana limestone and is one of the most popular monuments to take a photograph in front of in Pennsylvania.
After fans from Syracuse, a rival of Penn State, painted the lion orange with oil-based paint resulting in a messy clean-up, members of different student groups from Blue Band, Penn State ROTC, and Lion Ambassadors take turns guarding the shrine.
Before each big game, a giant campsite is home to hundreds of people camping out, barbecuing, and partying. This campsite is called Nittanyville and is right outside Gate A of the stadium. You may find celebrity appearances and football players walking around “The Ville.”
6. Rutgers University – New Brunswick
Rutgers University – New Brunswick is located in New Brunswick, New Jersey with campus colors of scarlet red and a mascot of the Scarlet Knights.
Rutgers University (RU) is a public school founded in 1766 and joined the East Division of the Big Ten in 2014. RU has an enrollment of approximately 40,000.
A favorite tradition for the RU students it The Scarlet Walk. Fans, cheerleaders, and band members line up as the players and coach walks past the “First Game” statue and touch it for good luck.
Another tradition for non-football fans is the pre-game festivities outside the north side of the stadium. These festivities include live music, food, a beer garden, contests with prizes, and a Kids Zone. Lined with refreshments from New Jersey food trucks and the Rutgers drum line’s music, Block R celebrates the community that Rutgers has to offers.
7. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is located in Champaign, Illinois with campus colors of orange and navy blue and a mascot of the Fighting Illini.
University of Illinois is a public school founded in 1867 and joined the West Division of the Big Ten in 1896. University of Illinois has an enrollment of approximately 49,000.
A few hours before the game starts, a parade of cheerleaders, the Orange and Blues group of the Marching Illini, players, and coaches walk to greet fans near the Memorial Stadium. This tradition is known as the Illini Walk.
A 12-foot bronze statue of Harold “Red” Grange stands outside the west side of Memorial Stadium. Red Grange was a famous Illini football player who won a victory against UMich in an unbelievable six touchdowns in the first 12 minutes. He later played professionally for the Chicago Bears and New York Yankees. Before every game, the players will touch the rock for good luck on the field.
8. University of Iowa
University of Iowa is located in Iowa City, Iowa with campus colors of black and gold and a mascot of the Hawkeyes.
University of Iowa is a public school founded in 1847 and joined the West Division of the Big Ten in 1899. University of Iowa has an enrollment of approximately 33,000.
A twenty-foot bronze statue of Nile Kinnick, an Iowa alumnus who served in WWII and won the Heisman Trophy in 1939, sits on the south side of the stadium. The University of Iowa football players have a tradition of touching the helmet before entering the locker room before a big game.
Another influential figure in football history at University of Iowa is Hayden Fry, a former head coach. He started the tradition of “The Swarm” where the teams jogs onto the field through the tunnel with a formation of captains at the front. This entrance shows the team’s unity and strength for the game.
9. University of Minnesota Twin Cities
University of Minnesota Twin Cities is located in Minneapolis, Minnesota with campus colors of maroon and gold and a mascot of the Golden Gophers.
University of Minnesota is a public school founded in 1851 and joined the West Division of the Big Ten in 1896. University of Minnesota has an enrollment of approximately 51,000.
A favorite tradition of University of Minnesota football fans is the McNamara Center Pre-Game Party, which starts three hours before kick-off. The football game is shown on jumbo screens in televised rooms where fans can enjoy a full bar, non-alcoholic drinks, refreshments, and food by D’Amico catering. This party is free and open to everyone.
10. University of Nebraska – Lincoln
University of Nebraska – Lincoln is located in Lincoln, Nebraska with campus colors of scarlet and cream and a mascot of the Cornhuskers.
University of Nebraska is a public school founded in 1869 and joined the West Division of the Big Ten in 2011. University of Nebraska has an enrollment of approximately 25,800.
At University of Nebraska – Lincoln, a skull and crossbones symbol has traditionally represented the Blackshirts, the first-string defense line of the football team. Now, football players cross their arms after a great defensive play to recognize the Blackshirts.
11. Northwestern University
Northwestern University is located in Evanston, Illinois with campus colors of purple and white and a mascot of the Wildcats.
Northwestern University is a private non-sectarian school founded in 1851 and joined the West Division of the Big Ten in 1896. Northwestern University has an enrollment of approximately 21,200.
A few hours before kickoffs, fans of Northwestern football line the Walker Way, a tunnel near the stadium. A fight song plays as the players and coaches arrive at the field. This tradition is called Walk with Us.
At the same time, a free pregame party called Wildcat Alley is open to those of legal drinking age. Cheerleaders and Willie the Wildcat greet fans. Fans can also receive free Goose Island beer through vouchers.
12. Purdue University
Purdue University is located in West Lafayette, Indiana with campus colors of black and old gold and a mascot of the Boilermakers.
Purdue University is a public school founded in 1869 and joined the West Division of the Big Ten in 1896. Purdue University has an enrollment of approximately 43,411.
A favorite tradition from the fans of Purdue football is The Breakfast Club. On the streets of West Lafayette at dawn, people of all ages dress up in crazy costumes and pre-game with breakfast and beer for the upcoming game. Early Saturday morning on game day, bars are packed with people socializing in their ridiculous get-ups.
The Friday before a big home game, fans of all ages begin the Boiler Bridge Walk at 5:30pm. Lead by Purdue Pete, the cheerleaders, the Boilermaker Special, and other community leaders, this parade walk across the John T. Myers Pedestrian Bridge across town. This tradition is a way for the community to come together and allows an opportunity for fans to interact with the team.
13. University of Wisconsin – Madison
University of Wisconsin is located in Madison, Wisconsin with campus colors of white and cardinal and a mascot of the Badgers.
University of Wisconsin is a public school founded in 1848 and joined the West Division of the Big Ten in 1896. University of Wisconsin has an enrollment of approximately 44,413.
A favorite tradition for football fans and non-football fans alike is the Badger Bash and Pre-Game Concert at Union South. This tailgate party starts three hours before kickoff at every home game.
The Bash offers food, live pregame radio broadcasts hosted by celebrity emcees, live music, drinks, entertainment with prizes, and games for kids. This event welcomes both opponents and the public.
The 5th quarter is one of Wisconsin’s most famous traditions. 5th quarter is a post-game celebration where Wisconsin’s band storms the field singing, dancing, and cheering old-time favorites such as “On, Wisconsin” and the Bud Song.
Associate Members include Johns Hopkins University and University of Notre Dame. Johns Hopkins University is located in Baltimore, Maryland with campus colors of white, black, and blue and a mascot of the Blue Jays.
Johns Hopkins University is a private school founded in 1876 and joined under the Men’s and Women’s Lacrosse teams in 2014.
University of Notre Dame has an enrollment of approximately 20,871. University of Notre Dame is located in Notre Dame, Indiana with campus colors of blue and metallic gold and a mascot of the Fighting Irish.
Notre Dame is a Catholic private school founded in 1842 and joined under the Men’s Ice hockey team teams in 2017. Notre Dame has an enrollment of approximately 11,700.
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