Growing up in a small(ish) Indiana town, Friday and Saturday winter nights have been considered sacred as basketball nights for as far back as I can remember. As a kid, going to the games and wearing the school colors was the highlight of most of my weeks, a welcome reprieve from the mundane and a chance to see all my friends and flirt with the cool older boys. Every player was a god and every cheerleader was everything you wanted to be (Until of course you were old enough to be friends with said players/cheerleaders and you realized that, incredibly, they were a-holes just like everyone else) But above all else, there was one thing that was a source of pride and tradition among my friends: knowing all the words to the fight song.
It wasn’t until years later that I realized that the high school fight song was simply a replica of a college one (as most are, ours being Wisconsin’s) with the words changed to reflect the mascot of the individual school (“Devils, how we love to praise thy name” seems vaguely inappropriate now). To hear a whole gym of people, young and old, sing the lyrics and clap to the beat is even today still mesmerizing to me and it carried over to my love of UK. Of course I get teary-eyed when I hear “My Old Kentucky Home”, but even hearing “On,On,UofK” stirs a passion that would be hard for me to describe to a lay person. When it’s on the radio behind the announcers I can’t help but clap my hands and sing along and even passing that crazy billboard in Louisville always made me turn the channel to hear it. There is just nothing like it.
But there are other fight songs from other schools that I like, even when I don’t like the team itself. So I thought I’d publish a little list of my favorite fight songs for each of the Big 6 conferences:
SEC: Obviously there is no question where my loyalty lies here. But if I had to go past UK, I’d annoyingly choose “Yea Alabama”. It’s traditional and hard to get out of your head.
Big 12: Since KSR has been on a Texas A&M kick as of late, I’ll continue and name theirs the best of the Big 12(10). “Aggie War Hymn” has the perfect blend of military march and cheer-inducing fervor to get anybody fired up for football in Texas.
Big Ten: I should pick Purdue’s “Hail to Old Purdue” since its been engrained in my head since the moment I stepped on campus six years ago, but there is better choice for me here. Behind Kentucky’s, Michigan’s fight song is by far my favorite. “Hail to the Victors” is pretentious and snobby, but undeniably infectious and surprisingly melodic for a fight song. I’ll admit that I barely know the actual words, but the tune is constantly stuck in my head during the football season and I’ll actually tune into Michigan games just to hear it. And to root against OSU.
Pac-10: For me, this comes down to USC vs. UCLA, and since I do love my tradition (and am partial to basketball), I think “Sons of Westwood” would win out with its uniqueness and almost trance-like quality. Listen to it and tell me it doesn’t make you trip out a little bit.
Big East: Can I have a pass? Not only does the conference suck on the football field (where the fight songs are most prevalently known) but they also suck at music. I’m going to take a cop-out and pick Notre Dame here, even though they are just basketball orphans the Big East picked up. “The Notre Dame Victory March” is probably the most recognizable fight song in American sports, and the most overly played thanks to every high school in the Midwest stealing the tune for themselves.
ACC: Georgia Tech’s “Rambling Wreck” is upbeat and fun and reminds me of football in the fall. Miami’s fight song is more well known, but I’m partial to the Wreck.
Agree or Disagree? What are your favorite college fight songs? Comment Away.